Monthly Archives: February 2010

Widow’s Kiss

My favorite thing about this cocktail is that it makes inexpensive Calvados taste like a million bucks.  Calvados is an apple brandy with its own appellation in France, just like Cognac or Armagnac.  We can get into the specifics of Calvados at a later date, but for now I’ll say it’s my favorite thing made from apples and it does wonders for re-awakening your appetite.

Yellow Chartreuse, Calvados, Benedictine and bitters. Mmm, mmm good.

If the name didn’t give it away, this is one of Ted Haigh’s forgotten cocktails. 

1-1/2 oz Calvados, 3/4 oz Benedictine, 3/4 oz Yellow Chartreuse, 2 dashes Angostura bitters. Combine all ingredients over ice, shake, strain into a chilled glass and garnish with a cherry.

The yellow (versus green) Chartreuse is an important distinction in this cocktail, because the yellow is more mild and has a touch more sweetness.    The Benedictine, in addition to the Chartreuse, adds just the right amount of herbaceousness.  The apple notes of the Calvados, though, are what come out on top here – clean, crisp; like you’re up a ladder picking your own apples in an orchard. 

The finish of this drink seems to last forever – eerily so.  Maybe that’s where the name comes from.

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Sour grapes

The beginning of the grape ripening process is referred to as veraison and in the northern hemisphere, it happens in the summer. 

Red grapes undergoing veraison.

The term comes from the French véraison and it is the time in the vine cycle when the vine’s energies are shifted from growing the berries in size to developing their sweetness and ripe fruit flavor.  Before this process, the grapes’ color is dictated by cholorphyll.  Depending on the variety, anthocyanins will make some berries red-black and carotenoids will make others yellow-green.

Prior to this period of time, the grapes are referred to as green berries and wouldn’t be recognizable to most folks.  They’re hard, starchy, acidic and about half of their final size.   

Alien berries!

Most people wait to harvest their grapes until they are fully ripe.  I came across a video, however, that shows how harvesting some of the grapes early can naturally promote acidity in wine (as opposed to adding tartaric acid later on in the winemaking process).  The clip features my friends Tracey and Jared of A Donkey and Goat Winery, based in Berkeley, CA. 

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Sour grapes“, posted with vodpod


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Filed under Videos, Wine

I want a drinkbot

In the article Just Like Mombot Used to Make in today’s Times, robots are delivering snacks, whipping up omelets, preparing octopus balls and making up to 800 bowls of ramen per day (with human staff reporting to them). 

I couldn’t help but think that while a snackbot is nice, a drinkbot would be nicer.  Unsurprisingly, other thirsty spirits out there share my sentiment.  By the time I got to page 2 of the article, I learned about the group, Roboexotica, who hosts festivals where scientists showcase “cocktail robots” as well as “beerbots”, some of whom will not only mix, serve and consume cocktails, but they might also tell jokes and smoke cigarettes. 

Just for fun, I went to You Tube to see what would pop up with a “drinkbot” search.  No clip on robots is complete without the statement, “Does not compute”.

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Filed under Gadgets, Noteworthy articles

C is for cap

The cap (chapeau in French) is the layer of grape solids that forms on the surface during red wine fermentation. 

Grape solids forming on the top of fermenting Mourvedre at A Donkey and Goat Winery in CA.

Fermenting Mourvedre at A Donkey and Goat winery in CA.

I got to sample a grape and it was like eating pop rocks, because of the CO2 forming as a by-product of fermentation.  The cap limits the oxygen available to the yeast, encouraging them to eat away at the grape sugar to form alcohol.  

The cap must be broken up and mixed back in with the liquid below, however, in order to extract the phenolics, which add color, flavor and longevity to the wine.  Phenolics can be found throughout the grape, but are particularly rich in the skins, seeds and stems (the solids!).  On a smaller production scale, the winemaker will “punch down” the cap several times per day.

Jared showing off his stainless punch down tool.

The punch down tool breaking through the cap. Notice the bubbles. Jared told me the cap would support his weight and he's not a little guy (he volunteered that information, too).

On a larger production scale, the winery will “pump over” the cap.

A pump doing its thing at Miner Family in CA.

We recently had an illustration created to use in our classes to explain how pumping over works.  Thanks, Laurel.

Flushing the liquid back over the cap to break it up, using a pump. My favorite part of this illustration is the female winemaker.


Filed under Alphabet Soup, Wine


I was recently introduced to  It’s been around since 2005, so I’m a little slow on the draw on this one.

You gotta love a guy who refers to himself as a spiritual advisor.  You’ll find reviews of everything from bar tools to Welsh whisky.  The “adventures” section has great photographs of Carlsson’s booze-themed travels and events.  He also seems to dig the Finger Lakes Distilling products, which is fine by me.

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Reinheitsgebot in Vietnam

Beer for sixteen cents a pint?  Crystal Ale draft, a top-fermented beer made with passion fruit and the local, litchi-like rambutan?  Restaurants serving German and Vietnamese fare side by side?  Yes, please!

Follow thirsty Russ Juskalian on his fantastic journey through the streets of Ho Chi Minh City in this great article in this weekend’s Times.

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One week from today

Come taste Finger Lakes Distilling products with me at Morrell & Company! 

I’ll be at One Rockefeller Plaza (on 49th between 5th and 6th) from 4-6:30 pm on Friday 2/26, so you can get your weekend started early.  Morrell sells the Seneca Drums Gin, the Glen Thunder corn whiskey and the McKenzie rye, but if you ask nicely, I might have a few other surprises in my bag. 

Hope to see you there!

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Filed under Events, Spirits