kelly magyarics

washington, d.c.-based wine, spirits, travel & lifestyle writer / wine educator

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Featured Cocktail: Mad-Hatten

Mad-Hatten Recently, I attended a virtual cocktail seminar offered by Taste by Four Seasons. After registering online, I was hand-delivered all the necessary tools and ingredients to mix up three cocktails crafted by Four Seasons' mixologists Duane Sylvestre, Cory Cuff and Adrian Ross-Boon. At the appointed time, I logged on, with my ingredients in hand, and mixed up three Valentine's Day-inspired libations as they did--all I needed to add was ice.

Ross-Boon's sip was a mash-up of two classic cocktails: the Manhattan and the Rob Roy. A touch of Creme de Cassis adds a sweet-tart element, while Knob Creek Rye and new-ish bitters by King Cocktail Dale DeGroff lend a spicy complexity.

Mad-Hatten Courtesy of Adrian Ross-Boon, Mixologist, Four Seasons Baltimore

1 1/2 oz. Knob Creek Rye Whiskey 1/2 oz. The Famous Grouse Scotch 1/2 oz. Sweet Vermouth (I recommend Dolin Rouge) 1/4 oz. Mathilde Creme de Cassis 2 dashes Dale DeGroff's Pimento Bitters Lemon peel, for garnish

Add all ingredients except garnish to a cocktail tin. Add ice, and stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a lemon peel.

For all three recipes, visit the Taste website.

Featured Wine: 2010 Primarius Oregon Pinot Noir

Primarius_Pinot_Noir_Oregon_2007 Over the holidays when we were in PA visiting family, a group of us went to one of our favorite area restaurants, River Grille in Easton. We wanted a wine that would pair with our various meat and fish dishes, and I was pleased to see this Oregon bottle on the menu at an affordable price point that allowed us to keep the wine flowing throughout the meal. I was taken with the bursting tart cherries, great acidity and soft tannins of the 2010 Primarius Oregon Pinot Noir. While it wasn't terribly complex, we found it to be highly drinkable, super food friendly, appealingly earthy and varietally correct (i.e. no attempts to extract more color and tannin than you should from a Pinot...) The name, by the way, comes from the Latin word for "distinguished."

Flash forward to last week, when I was shopping at my local Harris Teeter. I was excited to come upon it on the shelf for $15...which means I can add it to to my repertoire of go-to, affordable, domestic Pinot Noirs. Enjoy.

Featured Wine: California 37 Cabernet Sauvignon

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to chat with Train guitarist Jimmy Stafford about their Save Me, San Francisco wine line. (The band was in town to perform as part of GWU's Parents' Weekend. For the full scoop on my interview and their wines, read my Washington Life article.)

Train's wines, by the way, are no gimmicky celebrity bottles. Stafford is an admitted wine geek, who likes to indulge in a glass or two of red before heading onstage for each show. Out of their four current offerings, my favorite is California 37 (named for the band's seventh studio album, and the iconic California highway.)

The band says this wine reminds them of the first California Cabs they had during their early days. It's got blackberries, ripe cherries and a hint of eucalyptus. Oak gives it a pleasing vanilla note, and its soft, approachable tannins make it perfect with or without food.

You can buy this and other offerings in Train's wine line at Whole Foods Markets. It's also on the menu at Bonefish Grill and Ruth's Chris.

Featured Cocktail: Forrest Hills

I love Greenhook Ginsmiths Gin. So I was definitely intrigued when the Brooklyn distillery released its beach plum gin liqueur a few months ago. Founder Steven DeAngelo was inspired by the beach plums he saw on the shores of Rockaway Beach as a child to create a liqueur capturing the flavor of that rare native fruit. The final product has tart cherry notes, along with aromas of juniper, citrus and cinnamon--it's definitely fun to play with in the shaker. The distillery shared some beach plum liqueur-based libations created by New York bartenders, including the Forrest Hills. The sweet-sour liqueur gets a shot of even more tartness with the addition of fresh lemon juice and bitter lemon soda; a fragrant syrup infused with Earl Grey tea and mint turns up the aromatics.

Forrest Hills Courtesy of Hugh Crickmore of Marlow & Sons, New York, NY 2 oz. Greenhook Ginsmiths Beach Plum Gin Liqueur 1/2 oz. Earl  Grey- and mint-infused simple syrup (see Note) 1/2 oz. lemon juice 2 dashes black tea bitters or Angostura bitters Fever Tree Bitter Lemon Soda Mint sprig, for garnish

Add Beach Plum Gin, infused syrup, lemon juice and bitters to mixing glass. Add ice, and stir until chilled. Strain into a rocks-filled Collins glass, top with Fever Tree Bitter Lemon, and garnish with a mint sprig.

For the syrup: combine 1 Earl Grey tea bag, 1 cup demerara sugar, 1 cup fresh mint leaves and 2 cups boiling water. Stir until sugar dissolves. Remove tea bag and strain mint leaves. Store sugar in the refrigerator in a container with a tightly fitting lid.

 

Featured Cocktail: Sugar Pumpkin Collins

It's that time of year where cocktail ingredients switch from citrus, berry and fresh herbs, to pumpkins, baking spices and dark spirits. I definitely enjoy a good pumpkin potable, but many of them come off feeling heavy, rich and filling. While recently working on a piece about festive holiday cocktails, I came across this light alternative from the cocktail consultants at Pick and Rocks in San Diego. Pureed pumpkin is mixed with nutmeg and cinnamon, then strained through a chinois, for great flavor without the pulpy thickness. It's mixed with vodka and lemon, and topped with soda water, for a fall-inspired Collins riff that's very easy to sip.

Sugar Pumpkin Collins Courtesy of Pick and Rocks Cocktails, San Diego, California

1 ½ oz. vodka 1 oz. sugar pumpkin puree (See Note) 1 oz. lemon juice Soda water

Add all except soda to a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a Collins glass with ice, and top with soda.

Note: For the sugar pumpkin puree: Halve and remove seeds from sugar pumpkin. Lay halves open side down on sheet pan, and roast 1 hour at 375 degrees. Allow pumpkin halves to cool, and remove meat of the pumpkin from the skin. Combine 2 cups of pumpkin meat with 2 cups white sugar and 2 cups water. Add 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Blend this on high for 1 minute. Pass mixture through a fine mesh sieve or chinois.

Grape, Meet Grain: New Takes on the Wine Cocktail

Patrons torn between Malbec and a martini, or Syrah and a Sazerac, may no longer be forced to make that oh-so difficult wine-or-cocktail decision. Innovative mixologists are using wine in creative ways that lend drinks an enticing, yet entirely approachable complexity. Read more in my Proof Positive article that appears in the October 2012 issue of Wine Enthusiast.

 

September in Oaxaca cocktail at Oyamel

September 16 is Mexican Independence Day, and José André and his team at Oyamel Cocina Mexicana will be celebrating with food and drink specials available from September 14 to September 16 during dinner service. Guests can feast on Guacamole Chamacuero ($13) prepared tableside, with black rock orchard peaches, red grapes and pomegranate; Baton de Papas ($8), pan roasted new potatoes with shallots, duck fat, lime and chile de arbol; or Chile en Nogada ($10), a traditional independence day dish with a roasted poblano pepper stuffed with a picadillo made of local port, apple and raisin, topped with walnut crema and pomegranate seeds.

The beverage team, led by General Manager Michael Iglesias and Head Bartender Joe Cleveland, have created two libations in honor of the holiday. La Bandera,  meant to resemble the colors of the Mexican flag, is a rajas de Poblana Margarita served with pomegranate ice, white mums and walnut salt; September in Oaxaca combines Wahaka Mezcal de Espadin, local black mission figs, honey, lemon and chamomile air. Both are priced at $13.

Remember, these will only be available for 3 days, so make your reservations now.

LINCOLN Cocktail Voter Poll

Starting on September 11, DC's LINCOLN Restaurant will run a poll predicting the winner of the 2012 Presidential Election through the sales of two cocktails. The Elephant features rhubarb-infused whiskey, homemade strawberry liqueur, lime juice and bitters; The Donkey mixes blackberry-infused gin, ginger syrup, lime juice and soda. Both are $11. (I'm trying to get the complete recipes; if I do I will post them here.)

LINCOLN will keep score of the cocktails sold on a blackboard at the bar, and will also update their Facebook and Twitter pages each Friday. Try them both and cast your vote!

Rediscover Retsina

Modern styles of retsina—the traditional Greek wine aromatized with pine resin—are far cries from the floor-cleaner-scented, high-alcohol and oxidized versions of the past. Crisp and herbal, these wines pair effortlessly with dishes containing rosemary, mint and dill, and can even be shaken up in creative gin cocktails. Those who have tried retsina years ago and vowed to eschew it forever, or have yet to discover it, should give these updated versions a sip. Read more in my Wine Enthusiast article.

Featured Cocktail at Virtue Feed & Green

If you aren't quite yet ready to give up on summer (and I find myself firmly in that camp, especially since my vacation is still to come), Todd Thrasher from Eat Good Food Group's gastro tavern Virtue Feed & Grain has got you covered. His "Alex Used to Be a Barback and Now He's Making Corona-ritas," is a frozen watermelon margarita, topped with a Corona. As you sip away, the beer infuses into the Margarita, and vice versa. It's a great ode to the summer hop-tail, as well as an interesting study in cocktail physics.

Cool Coconut Cocktails

Maybe it’s because I’ve been dreaming about my upcoming Hawaiian vacation and have Tiki drinks and palm trees on the brain, but it seems to be the summer of coconut at D.C. bars. I’m not referring to the ubiquitous frozen Pina Colada (which, when made correctly is deliciously decadent and infinitely cooling in its own right), but to other ways D.C. mixologists are cracking open creative uses behind the bar for this tropical fruit. For all the recipes and drinks, read my article on Washington Life.

Tiki Tonic Estadio Bar Manager Adam Bernbach says coconut milk’s ability to be at once both creamy and refreshing makes it a great ingredient in a summer drink. Bernbach has more than several house-made recipes for tonic that are completely different but equally delicious. This version mixes ginger-infused syrup with coconut milk, lime juice and a dose of the powder from the bark of the cinchona tree, the ingredient that gives tonic its indicative bitterness.

1 ½ oz Rhum Neisson Blanc 3 ½ oz Tiki Tonic (see Note) Lime wheel, mint sprig and freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish

Add rum and tonic to an ice-filled Collins glass. Stir gently, and garnish with lime, mint and nutmeg.

For the Tiki tonic, combine 14 oz. ginger syrup (diced ginger infused overnight in simple syrup), 4 oz. coconut milk, 4 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice, 10 oz. water and 1 teaspoon red cinchona powder. Whisk, strain and funnel into a siphon.

For more ideas, read my article on Washington Life.

Featured Product: Dale DeGroff's Pimento Aromatic Bitters

King Cocktail just released his own bitters. Dale DeGroff's Pimento Aromatic Bitters were created by blending complex and multi-layered pimento with a hint of anise and other herbs. In case you didn't know, pimento is the Jamaican word for allspice, and it adds a wonderfully deep, spicy accent to many drinks (its essential oils are also believe to aid digestion). Try the bitters in classic and modern favorites including the Pina Colada, Painkiller, Mai Tai and Sazerac, as well as whiskey or Champagne cocktails.

You can pre-order a special Collectors' Edition Signature Bottle, which comes in a refillable 250 ml antique bottle with hand waxed top and dripper spout, signed in gold ink by Dale himself. Once you get your hands on your own bottle, shake a few dashes in these cocktails:

Morning Glory (Chicago Style)

1 ounce (30ml) Martell VSOP Cognac] 1 ounce (30ml) Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey 1 tsp rich simple syrup (two sugar to one water) 1 teaspoon Grand Marnier 1 dash (1/4 teaspoon) absinthe 2 dashes Dale DeGroff Pimento Bitters Thin-cut lemon peel, for garnish

Stir all except garnish and Champagne well with ice. Strain into chilled cocktail glass, add a healthy splash of Brut Champagne and twist a swatch of thin-cut lemon peel over the top.

Millenium Cocktail ( variation on the East India, created for Courvoisier in 2000)

1 1/2 oz (50ml) Courvoisier Millennium Cognac 1 1/2 ounce (50ml) Pineapple Juice 1 ounce (30ml) grand Marnier 1 dash Dale DeGroff Pimento Bitters Flamed orange zest and nutmeg, for garnish

Shake all ingredients except garnishes with ice, and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of flamed orange zest and dust with nutmeg.

 

Sommelier Profile: John Mitchell, Stella!, New Orleans

Offering a Bordeaux- and Burgundy-centric wine program in a francophilian-driven market like New Orleans isn’t exactly an unexpected choice for a sommelier. But now John Mitchell is game for a little round of spin the bottle; this fall he’s completely revamping his mainly French, 500-label list to incorporate much more of a Spanish focus. The ambitious wine director for New Orleans’ restaurants Stella! relishes the notion of giving guests a little bottle shock. Read more in my recent article in The Tasting Panel.

Featured Cocktail: Rouge, White and Blue

Just in time for the Summer Olympics, Bar Rouge Mixologist Rico Wisner is mixing up the Rouge, White and Blue cocktail, available for the duration of the Games from July 27 to August 12.

The libation is a patriotic toast to the United States’ Olympic Team, with Bluecoat Gin, seasonal white peach puree, house-made hibiscus grenadine and a dash of iced tea and lemonade, and sells for $9. Wisner selected the Philadelphia-distilled Gin as an American take on the traditional “redcoat” London Dry Gin, and as a nod to this year’s host city of London.

Mix them up at home for your Olympics viewing party. The hibiscus grenadine takes a little time to prepare, so plan accordingly. You can also order hibiscus flowers in syrup (which could be a sub for the grenadine) from www.wildhibiscus.com.

 

Rouge, White & Blue Courtesy of Rico Wisner, Bar Rouge, Washington, D.C.

1.5 oz. Bluecoat Gin .5 oz. White Peach Puree 1 oz. Fresh brewed iced black tea .75 oz. Hibiscus grenadine (see Note).5 oz. fresh lemon juice Club soda, to top White peach slice, for garnish

Combine all ingredients except club soda and garnish in a shaker. Add ice, and shake well. Strain into a tall chilled glass over fresh ice. Top with a splash of soda. Garnish with a white peach slice

For the Hibiscus Grenadine: 1 tbsp dried hibiscus flowers (Maybe a bit more if you use whole blossoms, and a little less if blossoms are cut like tea leaves.) 1 c. hot water 1 c. sugar

Steep hibiscus in water for 10 minutes. Stir in sugar, and simmer lightly until the liquid is reduced to approximately two-thirds of its original volume. Strain, and store in refrigerator up to two weeks.