September 15, 2011

Margarita Francesa, por favor!

Today kicks off the 25th Anniversary of National Hispanic Heritage Month so naturally that means we need to get a buzz on with some signature Hispanic cocktails. Margarita anyone?

Grand Marnier and Rosa Mexicano created this de-lush-ious Margarita Francesa to toast the occasion whether at home or at the restaurant. A traditional margarita mixes together the spirit of Mexico (hola, tequila!), orange liqueur and fresh lime juice and is actually the #1 selling cocktail in the United States. But, over the years its popularity has sparked unique twists on the classic recipe (hell, it’s how Bethenny made her fortune!)

I love this variation because it simply reverses the amount of spirit ingredients from a traditional margarita to give it a more vibrant taste. The result? A smoother profile that is balanced with the enticement of citrus notes and the complexity of cognac.

Go on, mix it up!

Margarita Francesa

  • 1.5 oz Grand Marnier

  • 1 oz Alma Tequila

  • 1 oz Lime Juice

  • 1/2 oz Orange Juice

  • 1/2 oz Simple Syrup
Preparation: Combine Grand Marnier, tequila, lime juice, orange juice and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain into a tall glass with ice and garnish with an orange wheel and lime wedge.

August 22, 2011

Cocktail Corner: Citrus & Solitude

Bombay Sapphire recently hosted their “Most Inspired Bartender” competition in New York City at Tribeca Rooftop, and joining the festivities this year as a judge was the beautiful, Selita Ebanks.

The model, actress and budding mixologist took her judging duties seriously – asking the bartenders questions and scribbling detailed notes about each cocktail. Her favorite drinks were those that had a little sweetness and a little spice, which she said reminded her of her upbringing in the Caribbean. So impressed by some male bartenders’ shaking abilities, Selita was overheard saying that she wished some of the bartenders could make their drinks shirtless! We're with you, girl!!

The winning cocktail? This yummy Citrus & Solitude from Sean McClure of craft which we re-created this weekend at our #WineDown.

Citrus & Solitude

  • 1 1/2 oz. BOMBAY SAPPHIRE
  • 3/4 oz. BENEDICTINE Liqueur
  • 3/4 oz. Yellow Chartreuse
  • 3/4 oz. Fresh Shibori yuzu juice
  • 1/4 oz Simple syrup

Directions: Combine all liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously. Strain over a 2" ice cube in a rocks glass. Garnish with a grapefruit twist.

August 16, 2011

Happy Rum Day!

It's National Rum Day and in honor, we're bypassing glasses and going straight to the pitcher with this delicious summer cocktail created by The Cocktail Guru, Jonathan Pogash. Bottoms up!

The Panamanian Soother (serves 8-10)

  • 1 1/2 cups Ron Abuelo AƱejo

  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice

  • 1 oz agave nectar

  • 1 pack blueberries

  • 12 sage leaves

  • 2 bottles Diet Ginger Beer

Preparation: In large pitcher, muddle the berries and sage together. Then add remaining ingredients with ice and stir very well.

August 13, 2011

Keepin’ “Chile” During the Hot Summer

Summer time is one of the most social seasons of the year -- with outdoor happy hours, rooftop parties and dinner gatherings galore! Often that also translates into excess calories that leave the bikini line in a bulge... but, August is the month it doesn't have to!

With the rise of "skinny" cocktails (our waist lines thank you, Bethenny Frankel!) there's no better time to revamp your seasonal libations than now -- National Chile Harvest kickoff month!

Fact is, chiles are not only a key ingredient in decadently spicy foods and beverages, they also offer many positive benefits to the body. According to my dear friend (and mentor), Pat Baird, RD, registered dietitian and nutrition consultant, "Chile peppers are a good source of most B vitamins, particularly B6, and are high in potassium, magnesium and iron. Chiles also contain special plant nutrients (phytochemicals) that protect cells from damage, and maintain overall health.”

For me? Well, you know I’m never going to forego a cocktail on an evening out and about (and we know they are in plethora), so it's all about checks and balances. That’s exactly why I opt to trade in more sugar-clad Pina Coladas and daquiris, which are high in calories, for something a little more saucy! You'll not only reap the benefits of the chiles themselves, but the spicy attributes will make you sip slower and avoid frequent 'refill' stops at the bar.

I’ve scoured some of the top bartops and spoke to prominent mixologists in the country to identify the hottest August sips. Thirsty yet? Whip up some of these chili-infused finds:

Hot Lips
By Manny Hinojosa, CORZO Mixology Specialist
• 1 1/2 oz. Corzo Silver
• 2 oz. fresh press pineapple juice
• 3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
• 1/2 oz. Natural agave nectar
• 2 slices of Serrano chile (muddled)

Preparation: Slice chiles and add to a shaker. Muddle using cocktail mixing whisk or spoon. Add tequila and let sit for a few minutes to let the spice infuse into the liquid. Add agave, pineapple and lime juices ice and top with ice. Shake well and strain into a well-chilled martini glass.

Red Chili Martini
By: Eugene Mardell of the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa
• 2.5 oz of tequila
• 1 tsp. of Mango chile puree
• Splash of fresh lime juice (to taste)
• Cayenne salt to rim
Preparation: Place in shaker over ice, shake and strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish with small, red chile.

Red Ice
By Stacy De Fino, WinoBee
*Makes 4 glasses
• 1/4 cup Haagan Daas Mango Sorbet
• 1 tsp fresh lime juice
• 1/2 tsp of lemon or lime zest
• 1/8 tsp chile powder (or muddled Serrano chiles)
• Lemon wedge (to garnish)
Mionetto Prosecco

Preparation: Using an immersion blender, mix sorbet, lime juice, zest and chile powder. Spoon mixture into a champagne flute. Fill with prosecco and stir lightly until ingredients are well meshed. Lightly rim lemon wedge in additional chile powder. Add lemon wedge to side of champagne flute to garnish.

As seen on “Good Morning Connecticut” on 8/13/11
Video compliments of WTNH-ABC

August 8, 2011

Food Network Launches Entwine

Here come the bride and groom... and in my case, they come in the form of a huge, flavor-bleeding flank steak and robust Cab! Ah, now that’s my kind of wedding - because food and wine, after all, is the perfect marriage.

And much to my agreement, a strong union has just been formed as the empire of all-things-grubbing, Food Network, has finally joined the ranks of lushes (like myself) nationwide. That’s right, Food Network has ventured into the wine making business and I couldn’t be more excited.

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the launch party for new Entwine, a collaborative effort between the Food Network and Wente Vineyards of California. Sergei Kuharsky, General Manager & New Business Chief for Food Network, mentioned that this effort was focused on the fact viewers are intimidated by the world of wine (gee, I couldn’t agree more!) and how naturally they wanted to make it easier and accessible for viewers by creating food-friendly styles of wine that people could understand (amen!).

In fact, with Entwine, Food Network takes all the fear out of sipping by labeling each of their four wine varieties with easy terms that even the least seasoned wine enthusiast can understand, like licking raspberry jam off the back of a spoon. We likey!

Even Chef Anne Burrell (a WinoBee fav - see here) of Food Network’s “Worst Cooks in America” and “Secrets of a Restaurant Chef,” joined the fun and shared her most prized wine tips!

"Go out and do research,” Burrell advises. "Go out to dinner, eat food, buy wine, drink wine. Decide what you like. Wine doesn’t have to be scary. When you go to a resturant, ask the people who are selling wine to help you. The more you drink it, the more you experience it, the more comfortable with it you’ll become... Let’s cook and enjoy the process of getting to dinner, and while we’re doing that we’ll try some wine."

And try some wine I did - with four varieties to select from, my glass was optimistically half full for most of the evening! If you don’t believe me, just look at the picture on the right!
  • Chardonnay -- apple and citrus notes that team up with citrus-bathed scallops, as the acidities balance one another out. Without the pairing, this wine may seem a little too tart.
  • Pinot Grigio -- a refreshingly, crisp wine with accents of green apple, lime and honey. Piggyback it with some kimchi grilled cheese for a little punchful pizzazz.
  • Merlot -- my favorite and just as the bottle says, like licking raspberry from a spoon. Pairs delightfully with pork loin tapas topped with tomato jam. The sweet and savory mix is a combination to win palates, tummies and hearts.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon -- a colorful blend of herbs, spice and dark fruits that pairs nicely with a Mediterranean beef slider infused with olives, nuts and raisins - the mixture of earth and sweet bring to life all the flavors housed in this little bottle of Cab.
All bottles retails for about $12.99, making it a great value wine for the everyday WinoBee. For more, scope out our video of Sergei, Anne and Karle Wente here:

July 20, 2011

BeeHind the Vine: Alessandro Lunardi of Frescobaldi

Alessandro Lunardi has been with the Frescobaldi family for over 20 years and is well versed in every aspect of wine from viticulture to marketing. I had the opportunity to chat with Alessandro following an evening he hosted recently, “Everyday Wines From the Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi family."

Alessandro opened up about this historic family, their fabulous wines and even offered some of his own tips:

Tell us about the history of Frescobaldi wine.
The Frescobaldi Family has been making wines for 700 years from spectacular estates scattered in the Tuscan countryside. They are passionate about their vineyards and define themselves as “stewards of the land”, for this reason they make wines with a strong sense of place. They have been constant innovators, and have often challenged the status quo from when they first planted Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in their Castello di Pomino Estate, to the creation of Mormoreto, a Bordeaux blend wine, made since 1983 at the Nipozzano estate. The guiding philosophy for the Frescobaldi's is getting the most from the land. Sometimes that means adhering to traditions and sometimes that means new ways of looking at their estates and different varieties. The Frescobaldi's have always been strong advocates of the Tuscan viticultural tradition they belong to, vigorously advocating that Sangiovese can make world class wine when planted in the right place.

Why is working at Frescobaldi so important to you?
Because Frescobaldi is a great company and an exceptional family where people represent “the” core value. When you work at Frescobaldi you are embraced in the family values and ethics, you share the passion and dedication of everybody, and are made part of the magic and success of the company. In addition this is a very well managed company, with clear strategies, a managerial structure that is second to none, and excellent support for those like me who are in the “front line”.

Which is your favorite Frescobaldi wine?
It’s hard because I like them all … each has a soft spot in my heart. But if I have to pick two wines stand out: Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino is for me the essence of great Sangiovese, made from vineyards on volcanic soils in the South West of Montalcino, it epitomizes the great elegance and harmony that belongs to everything in Tuscany; but above all I adore Mormoreto, a wine made of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, that has the classic style, aristocratic complexity, and gorgeous structure of the greatest wines of the world. And despite its French appearance Mormoreto breaths of Tuscany from the moment you pour it in a glass. And lastly Mormoreto frames the courage of the Frescobaldi family: when it was not fashionable at all, they decided to plant those unfamiliar varieties because they were the best to express that vineyard site … and this dedication to the place just amazes me.
Can you tell us a bit more about your Frescobaldi wine app? Any plans for future apps?
It is a new tool that will allow the consumers to enjoy wines. We are looking at expanding our reach to the consumer, especially the younger generations, providing as many tools as necessary to understand our wines and the places where they come from … so, stay tuned, there will be more coming!

Prior to joining Frescobaldi, you were a Wine Education Manager for Robert Mondavi - what is your biggest advice to individuals who are just starting to learn about wine?
The single most important advice to those who are starting to learn about wine is “trust your palate!” There is so much intimidation in our industry, with so many wines experts, and so much information that it may be frustrating to many people. I believe when it comes to wine nobody is wrong, it’s a question of pleasure, and each palate is different, so concentrate in understanding and appreciating what you drink, do some homework, and little by little refine you palate, but stick to it! Don’t drink a wine just because it received a high rating from a critic. This is how I started … and it worked.

Any advice for the more seasoned enthusiast, too?
I may just suggest to always drink wine with food, and evaluate how they complement the meal. I hear so many people talking about the extremes of wine, concentration, power, richness, and I am afraid we often forget that the ultimate experience is to have balanced wines that dance on your table with right meal.

Where do you see the future of wine extending to?
I think in the future, wine will be linked more closely to the place where it comes from, beyond the labels or the catchy fantasy names. I believe the younger generations, who are much more informed, are interested in discovering the stories and the places behind a wine, and are interested in experimenting. I also believe environmental sustainability in the vineyards and in the winemaking will be a strong trend. I continue to see more women in wine, at all levels, winemakers, sommeliers, sales reps, and customers. I am amazed by their acute sensitivity to wine and how accurate they are in their descriptions. I think women have one more 'gear,' a greater sensitivity for identifying and describing the nuances of fine wine.

If the world were to end tomorrow, what food and wine pairing would be your last supper?
Ahhh! Tricky question! I am from Tuscany and love our wines, but if had to pick the last bottle of my life it would be a Grand Cru Burgundy from a great vintage of the past, with the divine foie gras stuffed quail my sister-in-law, Sophie, makes.

Alessandro was kind enough to offer me several new Frescobaldi wines to try at my leisure, so be sure to check back each day this week to discover vicariously through my sipping!

July 18, 2011

Cocktail Corner: Champagne Float

Bubbly and sorbet can actually team up to create an instant classic. Not to mention the combination is a great almost-guilt-free indulgence. If you have your own ice cream maker at home (or if you just want to snag some Breyer's at your local supermarket) try mixing up the below concoction on a hot summer's day:

Champagne Float
  • Korbel Champagne (or other sparkling wine)
  • 1.5 spoonfuls of Lemon Sorbet
  • 1 Tsp. Lime Syrup
  • Diced strawberries or blueberries (optional)
  • Fresh Mint
Add champagne, syrup and sorbet into a small bowl. Use an immersion blender to infuse all of the flavors. Pour into champagne flute and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint. Optional - drop in a few diced strawberries or blueberries to the bottom of an empty champagne flute. to add color to your presentation.