kelly magyarics

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


Featured Cocktail: Hardly Wallbanger

The Hardly Wallbanger at Sycamore Den. The Harvey Wallbanger is one of those drinks so popular in the 1970s that's typically not seen on any ambitious or trend-forward cocktail menus. Basically a screwdriver with Galliano (that sweet herbal Italian liqueur, often found in the corners of dining and living rooms during that eras as the tall slender bottle just couldn't fit on bar shelves), this throwback tipple was allegedly created by mixologist Donato "Duke" Antone. Depending on what you read, the drink was either inspired by a 1950s Manhattan Beach surfer who could frequently be found on a stool at Antone's Sunset Avenue Bar, or created by the marketing department at Galliano, it was crazy popular in the me decade.

Mixologist Eric Johnson of San Diego's Sycamore Den, a bar whose decor is a modern take on a 1970s middle-class family room, updated the drink by adding fresh lemon, simple syrup and vanilla extract. Feel free to sip the Hardly Wallbanger on your shag rug amid your owl macrame, if that's how you roll.

Hardly Wallbanger Courtesy of Eric Johnson, Sycamore Den, San Diego, CA 1.5 oz. Vodka 1 oz. Galliano 1/2 oz. lemon juice 2 oz. orange juice 1/4 oz. simple syrup 2 dashes vanilla extract Soda water Orange wheel and cherry, for garnish

Build the drink in a Collins glass, add ice and stir. Top with soda water, and garnish with the orange wheel and cherry.

Featured Wine: 2009 Ivanović Tamjanika

Ambar offers 50 Balkan wines, including many indigenous varietals. Photo courtesy of Goranfoto A few nights ago I checked out the recently opened Ambar, a Balkan-themed restaurant in D.C. Their eclectic wine list boasts over 50 wines from Serbia, Macedonia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Croatia (as well a a smattering from Italy and California), with 25 available by the glass. I was simply blown away by how unfamiliar the list looked to me--Ambar offers many indigenous, unfamiliar grapes, but luckily the wine list has a handy primer at the bottom. Most of the staff is also Balkan, and all very knowledgeable about their native offerings.

I tried several wines, including one made from a grape called Tamjanika. It produces a dry, full-bodied white with honeysuckle aromas similar to a Gewurztraminer or Viognier. Ambar feaurs the 2009 Ivanović Tamjanika from Serbia for $10 a glass, and $39 a bottle. The wine was highly aromatic, with great acidity and a long finish. It was a perfect pairing with Gibanica ($6)  a "cheese pie" wrapped in phyllo dough and served with cucumber yogurt and roasted pepper spread.

If you are a member of the Wine Century Club, a visit to Ambar will let you knock out a bunch of varietals in one sitting. I recommend going with a few friends, getting a bunc of wines by the glass and just tasting and experimenting (while noshing on can't miss faves like the bread basket, panko crusted peppers or Balkan kebabs...)

Featured Cocktail: Franklin's Ghost

Franklin's Ghost at Island Creek Oyster Bar Island Creek Oyster Bar serves up this locavore libation, with white whiskey from nearby Bully Boy distillery, and a few bar spoons-ful of sweet-tart Bonnie's Strawberry Rhubarb Jam. If you don't live in the Boston area, feel free to substitute your own locally produced ingredients to keep the indigenous imbibing spirit alive. (For more info about locavore cocktail trend, look for my upcoming article in the May 2013 issue of Cheers.)

Franklin’s Ghost Courtesy of Vikram Hegde, head bartender, Island Creek Oyster Bar, Boston, MA According to Hegde, the name of this drink refers to the rumor that Benjamin Franklin first introduced rhubarb seeds to the American East Coast, and Hegde notes how white whiskey "always brings an ethereal, ghost-like quality to any cocktail." Unaged whiskey proves to be a great, neutral backdrop for the earthiness of the orgeat and Benedictine's herbaceousness. "The small pinch of salt integrates the flavors while masking any underlying bitterness," he explains, "resulting in a smooth cocktail fit for the living."

1 oz. Bully Boy White Whiskey ½ oz. Benedictine Liqueur ½ oz. orgeat syrup ½ oz. fresh lime juice 1 dash Peychauds Bitters 1 pinch of salt 2 bar spoons Bonnie’s Strawberry Rhubarb Jam Mint sprig, for garnish

Add all ingredients except garnish to a cocktail shaker. Add ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Featured Cocktail: Cherry Spiced Manhattan

Cherry Spiced Manhattan. Photo courtesy of Dakota Fine. Recently I wrote a piece for DC Magazine about bars that incorporate their design elements and aesthetics into their cocktails. D.C.'s St. Regis Hotel recently underwent an extensive renovation, including its bar. The new space boasts distressed leather seating and muted neutral tones, and the Cherry Spiced Manhattan is a manifestation of this new design. Brent Kroll, who created the drink, says, "With its deep burgundy color, the Cherry Spiced Manhattan is a perfect representation of the redesign of the bar. With its rich leather chairs and bronze details the bar is a modern twist on classic sophistication much like the drink itself."

St. Regis Bar

For more drinks by design, see my recent DC Magazine piece in the March 2013 issue.

Cherry Spiced Manhattan

Courtesy of St. Regis Bar, Washington, D.C.

3 oz. Redemption Rye 1 1/2 oz. Dolin Rouge Vermouth 1/8 oz. Allspice Dram 1/8 oz. Angostura Bitters Brandied cherries, for garnish

Add all except garnish into a cocktail shaker. Add ice, and stir  until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with brandied cherries.

Featured Cocktail: Pineapple Lime Cilantro Margarita

margarita February 22 is National Margarita Day. And how perfect that it falls on a Friday? This riff on everyone's favorite Tequila- and lime-based libation has cilantro and pineapple for added deliciousness and a touch of herbaceousness. As always, fresh pineapple juice is best...but canned will work in a pinch. The recipe makes 6 drinks...enough for a few friends during happy hour, or one or two very thirsty Margarita lovers. Feel free to play with the amount of Tequila, depending on your preferred potency. Enjoy!

Pineapple Lime Cilantro Margarita Courtesy of Sauza Tequila Serves 6 2 cups pineapple juice 1/8 cup cilantro, minced 1/4 cup fresh lime juice 1/4 cup fresh orange juice 6-8 oz. Sauza Blue 100% Agave Silver Tequila 2 oz. orange liqueur (Cointreau or Combier) 2 cups ice 1 lime and 1 orange, for garnish Salt, for rimming

Rim 6 Margarita glasses with salt by rubbing the outside edge with a lime wedge and dipping into a plate of salt. In a pitcher, combine the pineapple juice, cilantro, lime juice, orange juice, Tequila and orange liqueur. Stir until well-chilled. Serve up or on the rocks.

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 Cocktail: Chicago's Cohasset Punch


To honor Number 44's Chicago hometown, the bar at Bastille is serving up The Chicago Cohasset Punch—a drink that for decades was the essential cocktail in the Windy City. Victoria-era actor William Crane—who played long runs in Chicago’s Hooley Theatre—was known to throw fashionable parties at his home in Cohasset, MA. One time, he brought Chicago bartender Gus Williams back to Massachusetts to create an original libation for one of his soirees. Williams created a punch that was the hit of the fete, and put it on the menu back at home at his place, Williams & Newman, where it became known as Chicago’s most distinctive drink. Read more Inauguration-inspired libations available in the D.C. area in my recent Washington Life article.

Chicago’s Cohasset Punch Recipe courtesy of Bastille, Alexandria, VA 1 ½ oz. Clement VSOP Rhum 1 oz. sweet Vermouth ¼ oz. lemon juice ½ oz. Crème de Peche ½ oz. Grand Marnier ¼ oz. simple syrup 2 dashes orange bitters Orange twist, for garnish

Add all except garnish to a cocktail shaker. Add ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with an orange twist.

Featured Cocktail: The Presidential

The Presidential at Quill was inspired by Jefferson's love of apples. For DC Magazine's January issue, I explored the idea of presidential cocktails: ones named for or inspired by presidents, as well as those that bartenders speculate they may have sipped if they were alive today. In the District, we have a bunch of bars named for and/or inspired by former presidents: Lincoln, Quill and Plume at The Jefferson, and the upcoming Teddy and the Bully Bar, just to name a few. On January 9, I appeared on Let's Talk Live to talk about and mix up a few of these presidential potables, including this great sip from head bartender Sofia Celasco at Quill. Though major oenophile Thomas Jefferson failed at winemaking on his estate at Monticello, he did have a thriving apple orchard. He had the staff include apples in many dishes on the menu, and was known to throw back a cold mug of cider with nearly every meal. This tipple gives a nod to his love of the crisp fruit.

You can read about all of the cocktails here, and check out the Let's Talk Live segment here.

The Presidential Courtesy of Sofia Celasco,  head bartender at Quill at The Jefferson Hotel, Washington, D.C. This drink gets its kick from both Bourbon and Applejack, an apple-based brandy discovered and brought to the colonies by George Washington. A cinnamon-infused simple syrup pairs nicely with the Bourbon's sweetness and Applejack's subtle apple notes. Feel free to play with the ratio of Bourbon to Applejack--I actually like to make them equal to coax out more apple flavor. Celasco garnishes the drink with a cinnamon-tinged baked apple slice; a stick of cinnamon works just as nicely

1.5 oz. Bourbon 1 oz. Laird's Applejack 1/4 oz. cinnamon-infused syrup (equal parts sugar and water and a few cinnamon sticks, boiled until sugar dissolves, and then removed from heat and left to steep until desired cinnamon flavor is achieved) 1/4 oz. lemon juice Few dashes whiskey bitters Cinnamon-coated baked apple slice, or cinnamon stick, for garnish

Add Bourbon, Applejack, syrup, lemon juice and whiskey bitters to a cocktail shaker. Add ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass that has fresh ice, and garnish with the apple slice or cinnamon stick.

Featured Cocktail: Hendrick's Hot Gin Punch

Hendricks-hot-gin-punch-litre-bottle When you think of a base for a winter warmer punch, gin might not come to mind. But Hendrick's Gin Brand Ambassador Jim Ryan thinks we should reconsider that notion. "With the winter upon us, I've been interested in the spicier notes," he says. "Many forget that there are a multitude of botanicals that go into making gin, many of them either citrus peel or spice."

Warm gin punches date back to the 1700's--this recipe hails from Charles Dickens' David Copperfield, where it was prepared by the character Wilkens Micawber. It has a hefty amount of both gin and Madeira, as well as baking spices and citrus. Ryan served it a few weeks ago to more than two thousand consumers, who said found it not only incredibly delicious, but also very seasonal.

Hendrick's Hot Gin Punch 3 full teacups of Hendrick's Gin (24 oz.) 3 full teacups of Madeira (24 oz.) 3 cloves 1 pinch grated nutmeg 1 heaping teaspoon of ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon brown sugar 6 large lemon twists 1 small slice orange 3 big chunks fresh pineapple 4 large spoons honey Juice of 1 lemon Dash of water

Mix all ingredients in a large pot. Warm up to a simmer, and let simmer for twenty minutes or until desired taste. Pour in a teapot or metal punch bowl, and serve hot with some ginger bread on the side.

Featured Cocktail: Kumquat Collins

kumquat_botero This delicious twist on the classic Gin Collins comes to us from Patricia Richards, master mixologist for the Wynn / Encore Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. "The citrus notes of the Tanqueray #10 gin tie this cocktail together beautifully," she says. "I was inspired to combine the flavors of kumquats and kaffir lime leaves."

Kumquat Collins Recipe courtesy of Patricia Richards, master mixologist, Wynn / Encore Resort and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada

2 1/4 oz. Tanqueray #10 Gin 1/4 oz. Cointreau Kumquat- and kaffir-infused syrup (see recipe) 1 oz. fresh lime juice 2 1/2 oz. club soda Sliced kumquats and mint, for garnish.

Combine gin, Cointreau, syrup and lime juice in a bar mixing glass. Add ice, and shake to chill. Add soda to tin, stir briefly, and then strain over fresh ice into a Collins glass. Garnish with 5 slices of kumquat (cut horizontally and seeds removed), and top with a mint sprig. The kumquat slices should be evenly dispersed throughout the cocktail.

For the kumquat-kaffir lime simple syrup (makes 1 quart): 5 fresh kaffir lime leaves 33 fresh kumquats, with stalky stem side trimmed off, and then sliced in half lenghwise (if kumquats are super small, add a few more) 21 oz. superfine granulated sugar 17 oz. bottled water 1 small Tahitian vanilla bean, sliced in half lengthwise 1 tsp packed finely grated lime zest 1 tsp packed finely grated orange zest

Place all the ingredients into a medium-sized pot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the temperature.  Simmer for 20 minutes, until the kumquats become transparent in the center. Remove from heat, allowing the flavors to infuse for another 20 minutes while cooling. Strain syrup to remove solids. Once cooled, drain the syrup into a container with a tightly fitting lid, and store in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Featured Cocktail: Fifties on Fifth


While recently working on a piece about presidentially-inspired cocktails, I came across this sip from D.C. gastropub Shaw's Tavern. Bar manager and mixologist Ron Herbison told me that applejack, or cider as it used to be known, was the preferred tipple of President William Henry Harrison, used at Shaw's in the Fifties on Fifth cocktail on their upcoming new drinks list. "A bit harsh, we spruce it up to make it refined--dare I say cosmopolitan," he explains. "We make it on the rocks as there is no sense in going over the top."

Fifties on Fifth makes use of applejack, the distilled cider popular with our Founding Fathers (and known for its inclusion in the Jack Rose cocktail.) The inclusion of cranberry gives it a decidedly festive tone, and basil and Vermouth add aromatics. Laird's is the most readily known producer.

Fifties on Fifth Courtesy of Ron Herbison, bar manager, Shaw's Tavern, Washington, D.C. 1 ounce Applejack 1/2 ounce Dolin Dry Vermouth 1/2 ounce Dolin Sweet Vermouth Cranberry juice Basil

Muddle a few basil leaves in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add other ingredients and ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice.

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.