Whiskey Business

The Irish weren’t the first to turn malted barley into whiskey over 3,000 years ago, but they certainly propelled the distilled mash into the art form we know today. Baileys in particular is eponymous with the cream-spiked brew, ranking as one of the most recognizable, top-selling liqueurs worldwide. The brand itself has been around for less than 50 years, but you’d be hard pressed to find any bar without an open bottle handy.

That kind of success goes well beyond the “luck of the Irish.” Adapting deftly to the rise of dairy-free drinkers, Baileys Almande continues to make waves among the imbibers in the know. A subtly nutty almond milk base complements the notes of sweet vanilla, with a bracing whisky bite. You don’t need to be well-versed in mixology to appreciate that kind of indulgent blend.

Baileys isn’t the only option for luscious liqueur, though. Making your own at home is both effortless and economical. Taking a page from the original spirited tipple, my DIY approach incorporates a touch of cocoa and coffee for a gentle mocha kiss. Flawlessly smooth and creamy, a straight shot envelopes the palate like liquefied ice cream, with an extra kick.

Serve it thoroughly chilled, on the rocks, for an instant after dinner treat, or use it as the catalyst for bolder culinary experiments. From brownies to cheesecakes, French toast to hot chocolate, it’s an incredibly versatile ingredient in its own right.

Forget beer and seltzer; this is the real gateway drug to adult beverages.

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Fresh Starts

Strapped for cash, struggling to make ends meet as the year winds down, the time had come to sacrifice some of my extraneous toys. I finally bid adieu to an old friend, and sold my juicer. The behemoth had flown with me from Connecticut to California made the drive from Oakland to Austin, surviving both treacherous journeys without so much as a scratch. Don’t get me wrong; I loved the masticating monster. It just never found a stable place in my daily routine. Peering out from the cabinet periodically, it would catch my eye as the light glinted off its stainless steel facade, only to return to the darkness untouched.

It deserved better. A machine should be used, not just stored. Helping to kick-start a neighbor’s newfound fervor for juicing, it’s a relief to see the old gal find a loving new home, as hard as it is to let go. Before that fateful day, we gave it one last whirl, squeezing the last drops of joy from our time together.

Releasing a golden wave of liquid sunshine into my glass, tropical notes of pineapple spiked with the bright acidity of fresh lemon flowed freely in this last hurrah. Naturally sweet without any sugar, the blend was tart, tangy, bright and bold. It glistened with vitality, fresh and invigorating. That would be enough for a morning wake up call, but to celebrate the occasion, a splash of sparkling white wine felt like an appropriate final touch.

As I raise this glass, to friendship and new beginnings, my heart swells with hope for the future. May 2021 be better for all of us.

Cheers!

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All-Access Pass

This blog post is sponsored by Wine Access but as always, the opinions and experiences expressed in this post are my own.

Still feeling a bit depleted following the holiday havoc? The dust has settled and the days of 2020 valiantly soldier on, but something seems to be missing. Plagued by an undefinable emptiness, once spirited conversations suddenly fall flat, marred by a pervasive emptiness. Don’t worry, it’s in your head- It’s simply not in your wine cellar, either! Pouring generous glasses all through December and popping the cork on New Year’s has no doubt depleted your secret stash, leaving the choices for imbibing scant at best.

As a total wine novice, the idea of buying even a single bottle is daunting, let alone a half dozen at once. How do I know I’ll like it? Is a lower-priced option a great value or just plain cheap? If you’re suffering the same sort of dry spell, here’s something to cheer about. The great “Restock Your Cellar Sale” is on at Wine Access, this week only, offering 15% off all Store Wines. These carefully curated bottles are sourced from producers both large and small across the globe, tasted, vetted, and selected from only the best stock.

To the discerning, the undecided, and the dubious alike, Wine Access has done all the hard work of collectively tasting thousands of wines each year to offer only those that exceed expectations typically defined by price. That means you always get the best deals on the best bottles, with a huge variety to pick from, no matter your preference. We’re not just talking about red or white, but a wide selection of affordable rosés, and even fine sakes coming in straight from Japan. If sparkling is more your speed, then you have options bubbling up all over, too!

If the affordable labels give you reverse sticker shock, fear not; there’s no bottom of the barrel, two buck chuck in here. The Wine Access team has spent decades cultivating relationships with producers from the US, Argentina, Chile, France, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, and beyond. These personal connections unlock access to the most out-of-reach wines from First Growth Bordeaux estates to Napa cult icons with the longest wait-lists and impossibly rare treasures.

For example, I never would have found out about, let alone tried out, the Crémant de Loire Brut NV that has become a new personal favorite. A juicy white that sparkles with notes of grapefruit and tangerine, it has all the body of a crisp champagne. For fellow novices, each bottle comes with helpful hang tags that include tasting notes and pairing suggestions, along with in-depth descriptions with room to write in your own thoughts. Just add snacks and you’ve got yourself a party waiting to happen!

The Katafune Tokubetsu Honjozo Genshu Niigata is another pick that stands apart from the pack. I’ve never seen it in any restaurants, nor for sale in any other bottle shops. Unlike most brews based on fermented rice, each sip is bold, rich, and strong enough to pair with a hearty, deeply savory meal, like an umami portobello mushroom steak. If you think you don’t like sake, this one just might change your mind.

That’s not even a drop of what’s in store here. Don’t forget, shipping is included on orders over $120 or 6+ bottles, so now is the time to fill up your digital cart. The arrival of those carefully wrapped bottles dropped right at your doorstep will be a reason for celebration in and of itself.

With Wine Access, a world of classic, new, and rare wines awaits the turning of your corkscrew.

Squeeze the Day

Limoncello is not any old fruit liqueur; it’s straight-up sunshine in a bottle. Liquid gold, simultaneously tart, tangy, smooth, and sweet, is so much more than the sum of its parts. Three simple, common ingredients are all you need, aside from the intangible addition of time. More patience is needed than anything else, as the infusion grows stronger, more fragrant, more colorful by the day. Though the temptation may feel irresistible at times, summon all your willpower to keep a lid on it, literally.

Intense citrus flavor allows this elixir to mix beautifully with other spirits or sparkling beverages without ever risking dilution. Traditionally enjoyed as a digestif, a simple shot can be equally restorative, waking up the senses with such a boldly fragrant, vivacious lemon essence.

Needless to say, every ingredient counts when so few make the cut. Do not skimp on lesser citrus especially, as none can match the delicate nuances and almost jammy sweetness of Meyer lemons, which come without the harsh acidity of conventional varieties. Likewise, this is the time to break out the good stuff from your secret stash at the back of the liquor cabinet. It’s impossible to end up with unpalatable Limoncello, truth be told, but it’s just as effortless to create something truly unparalleled in quality.

Though the wait time may seem daunting, don’t let that scare you off. The results are worth any delayed gratification, as no store-bought variety will ever taste as fresh.

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Stubborn as a Mule

Endlessly evaluating the population at large, it’s impossible to predict exactly when or if a trend with actually come to bear, but that sure doesn’t stop us from trying. One of the most recent assessments that hit my radar was which drinks would be big this summer.

Preferences appear to be split across the country, showing a rise in appreciation for the aperol spritz and negroni in along the west coast, while easterners are more likely to quaff hard seltzer or froze to beat the heat. However, Moscow mules were indisputably on the decline across the board, having peaked in popularity long ago. Those copper mugs are so 2018.

Naturally, that’s exactly what I find myself gravitating towards.

Rather than claiming I was on board before it was cool, I’m proud to proclaim that I’m all in after it was cool. Much less pretentious, just a bit slow, I’ve discovered the charm of bracing ginger and lime over ice, spiked with the clean, crisp bite of vodka. It’s hard to go wrong with such a classic combination, which begs the question, just who is turning up their noses to proclaim it as passe? Besides, you’ve already got the cups knocking around in the back of your cabinet… What else are you going to do with them?

Meeting Russia by way of Japan, my eastern inspiration swaps vodka for sake, lime for bold, astringent yuzu juice, and adds a touch of matcha for an earthy foil. Paired with bracing ginger beer for both a sweet and spicy bite, this new blend could very well become a trend-setter after all.

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