Formally trained at the WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust), as well as on the floors of various restaurants and bars around the country, Prairie Rose is a Los Angeles-based cocktail and spirits writer, events producer, marketer, consultant, and gal about town. The Bit by a Fox blog won Saveur Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Best Cocktail Blog in 2014.
What does it take to be one of the greatest whisky blenders in the world? According to Dr. Rachel Barrie, Master Blender for historic single malt scotch brands BenRiach, The GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh, it takes a complex blend of traits, much like her creations.
She is part scientist, part soothsayer, composer, and artisan. Besides nosing and tasting thousands of casks every year, Rachel has to anticipate exactly how a whisky will age, if and when to blend, and how the wood she selects will affect the final product. Despite the many variables, she considers her role to be an artistic one. Her warm approach and affection for her precious creations has an almost maternal quality. And her passion for Scotch is infectious.
The GlenDronach brand is one of Scotland’s oldest distilleries, and is most noted for their sherry cask aging. Rachel and I sipped through this new release as well as two other expressions, while we discussed her journey over the last three decades to become Scotch Whisky’s First Lady.
This week’s recipe is Rachel’s favorite scotch-based cocktail…
Aquavit, aqua vitae…”Water of Life”. This Scandinavian spirit has been produced since the 15th century and yet, here in the states, we’re still getting to know it. Bartender, writer and brand manager for Åhus Akvavit, Malina Bickford is making it her mission to spread the good word about this centuries old spirit of the Nordics.
For this week’s Bit by a Fox Podcast, Malina takes us through a bit of the history and production of aquavit, we try Åhus Akvavit, a contemporary Swedish brand that is becoming a favorite among bartenders, and discuss Aquavit Week, a week-long celebration of the signature spirit of Scandinavia, now in its seventh year.
We recorded this episode at Redbird restaurant in downtown Los Angeles – one of the biggest supporters of Aquavit Week in LA. Bar Director Tobin Shea has led an award-winning bar program that features a variety of aquavit brands and aquavit cocktails. Tobin also joins us later into the episode, shares the Åhus Akvavit cocktail featured on the menu for Aquavit Week, and helps to explain how he likes to incorporate aquavit into cocktails.
The Trinity cocktail at Redbird features Åhus Akvavit and bright vegetal flavors. So good!
For this week’s featured cocktail, Malina shared with us a simplified version of Tobin’s aquavit gimlet.
2 oz aquavit
3/4 oz lime juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
garnish: lime wheel
Shake all ingredients over ice until well chilled, strain into a cocktail glass. garnish with a lime wheel.
Thanksgiving always has a way of sneaking up on me every year. I mean, I could say that about pretty much every holiday, but Thanksgiving is my FAVORITE. It makes zero sense. I should be Pinterest-ing recipes and tablescapes months in advance. WHY AM I NEVER PREPARED?
I’ve got my go-to dishes that I always make (boozy cranberry sauce, anyone?!), but for some reason I’m always scrambling at the last minute to figure out what to drink. I know, I know, even I struggle with this dilemna. Because this is NOT the time for crazy bespoke craft cocktails for all of your guests throughout the night. That’s why large format drinks and punches are a perfect idea for the most epic meal of the year.
Since you know it’s going to be an indulgent afternoon and evening of supping, why not make something that has a little good stuff sneaked in?! Like the antioxidant powerhouse that is Argentine Yerba Mate! Along with a multitude of vitamins like B and C and zinc and potassium, it also has that zip of caffeine similar to a cup of coffee that will surely counteract whatever food sleepies creep in by the end of the meal.
Did I mention that Argentine Yerba Mate is also a yummy addition to cocktails? Oh yeah, I have! Many times! Haha. I feel like a broken record, but it’s all true, guys. I’m a fan. It can add tannins, a touch of smoke, and a slight earthiness to a drink. And when paired in this winter punch with mulling spices, ginger beer, and dark rum, you may just want to make a gigantic batch of this, hole up for the winter and sip your way to spring!
I may not be as prepared for Thanksgiving as I’d like, but I DO know what I’ll be making an enormous punch bowl of in a few weeks – this Argentine Yerba Mate Winter Punch. Take that, Turkey Day!
Argentine Yerba Mate Winter Punch – serves 10-12
In a large punch bowl add the following ingredients:
1 750 ml bottle of Dark Rum
3 cups Argentine Yerba Mate Tea, cooled
1 cup Mulling Spiced Syrup*
1 cup lemon juice
Immediately before serving, add ginger beer and ice cubes. Garnish with sliced orange wheels, cinnamon sticks and star anise.
*Mulling Spiced Syrup
In a large saucepan, make a syrup by boiling 1 cup of water, 1 cup sugar and mulling spices for 10 minutes. Cool. Save extra for later.
You can find Argentine Yerba Mate brands in specialty tea stores and in select Whole Foods Markets across the U.S. You can also purchase Argentine Yerba Mate on Amazon.com
For this week’s Bit by a Fox Podcast we are continuing on to Part 2 of our Cognac series.
Last month, I had the great honor of visiting the Cognac region in the Southwest of France at the very start of harvest season. It was truly a magical time to be there. That familiar shift from summer to fall was a palpable feeling, the light was especially golden in the vineyards, and the grapes were heavy with juice. One could really sense that this was first and foremost a wine region. And to truly understand Cognac, you need to understand wine. Over the course of the week, I was able to visit a variety of Cognac houses and sit down with cellar masters, family distillers and representatives to discuss what makes their approach just a little different from the next house. The beauty of this visit was the diversity in how each Maison approached their process. I loved how varied each one was from one another. But the common thread with all of those I spoke to and visited was the passion behind the process.
In this week’s episode I sit down with two very different Cognac houses. One house, in the heart of the Grand Champagne region, is rooted in tradition, and the other is a young brand that is shaking up the category with some modern techniques.
My first guest is Patrice Piveteau, deputy general manager and cellar master at Cognac Frapin.
The Frapin family has been in the heart of the Grande Champagne region in the SW France since the middle ages first as wine growers and then distillers of Cognac. They’ve continued this tradition for 20 generations. They are considered a smaller house but have the unusual good fortune of owning all of their vineyards over 200 hectares or Ugni blanc grape vines. After a tour of the vineyards A cellar whose framework was created by Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame and a tasting of their incredibly varied line up. It was a privilege to sit down with Patrice, one of the most well regarded cellar masters in the region.
My guest this week is also winemaker, distiller and Bourgoin Cognac family member, Frédéric Bourgoin.
The Bourgoin family has been wine growers servicing the cognac industry since 1930. Frederic’s great-grandfather was a grape-grower, who worked with many of the most highly regarded Cognac houses in the region. But it wasn’t until recently that they’ve decided to produce their own brand. Their approach is especially connected to the family land, producing organic grapes and employing biodynamic techniques. Minimal intervention and zero chemical interference is key their grape to glass philosophy. They’ve already started to gain a cult following with their modern packaging and hyper hand-crafted approach.
This week’s cocktail recipe is the classic French 75 made with Cognac:
1 oz cognac
1/4 oz lemon juice
1/4 oz simple syrup
4-5 oz champagne
Pour cognac, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a shaker filled with ice and shake until well chilled. Strain into a very cold Champagne glass, top with bubbly, and garnish with a lemon twist.
It’s finally here, you guys. It’s FALL! I think we can all agree, no matter where you live in the world, FALL IS THE BEST. Even Los Angeles is feeling the cooler nights, spice and woodsmoke in the air, and the cozy factor is turnt UP. It may not be full on sweater weather here, but my fave ponchos are in full rotation.
When I moved from New York to Los Angeles a few years ago, I realized how much of a seasonal drinker I was. Relocating to a place that is sunny all year round had me craving lighter, sparkling, lower alcohol concoctions more and more. My first year in La La Land also had me really missing the dramatic Autumnal feelzzz the northeast is so famous for. But by the next year I started to detect the seasonal shifts that I hadn’t when I first got here. And my palate adapted as well.
What I love about this Argentine Yerba Mate Harvest Spritz that I created especially for the season, is that it is a combination of all that. My initial leanings towards lighter, sparkling and lower alcohol drinks when I first moved here, along with my cravings for all things autumn.
The smokiness of the Argentine Yerba Mate tea, along with the autumnal sweetness of the apricot brandy and maple syrup is complemented by a seasonal punch of hard apple cider. It really is sparkling harvest in a glass.
The addition of Argentine Yerba Mate tea adds an earthiness and slightly tannic quality to the overall flavor as well as a little kick of caffeine – something we all could use a little more of during these darker days! Not to mention, this tea native to South America contains a boost of antioxidants (more than green tea!) and a slew of other health benefits like vitamins and minerals that are extremely beneficial during the onslaught of flu season! You can find Argentine Yerba Mate brands in specialty tea stores and in select Whole Foods Markets across the U.S. You can also purchase Argentine Yerba Mate on Amazon.com.
Instead of cozying up with a hot cup of tea, how about mixing up this easy fall sparkler, throw on a poncho, and celebrate this most beautiful, fleeting time of year!
Argentine Yerba Mate Harvest Spritz – served over ice
2 oz Argentine Yerba Mate Tea, cooled
1 oz Apricot Brandy
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Maple Syrup
Dry Sparkling Hard Apple Cider
Garnish: apple wedge
In an ice-filled shaker, add the cooled Yerba Mate, apricot brandy, lemon juice and maple syrup. Shake well until chilled. Strain into a highball or mason jar filled with ice. Top with dry sparkling hard cider and stir. Garnish with apple wedge.
Brandy is having a moment. Well, it’s had many moments over the years but it’s definitely having a moment again.
Brandy, a spirit created by distilling wine, dates back to the beginning of distillation. It also plays a pivotal role in American history. It was once a fundamental part of daily life during the Colonial era, was extremely popular into the 18th and 19th Centuries, and during the The Golden Age of cocktails was THE go-to spirit for crafty libations. The idea of aging whiskies in America was even inspired by brandy. The very first Bourbon in the states was put into charred oak barrels to mimic the taste the brandies coming out of France. But then Prohibition came along and the brandy industry was nearly all but destroyed in the states. And even when this current golden age of cocktails rose up, and out of favor spirits were suddenly in vogue again, it failed to totally bring brandy back to its original heyday. But with American consumption of Cognac on the rise, continued interest in classic craft cocktails, and brandy distilleries once again dotting our country, brandy is having a moment.
On the Bit by a Fox Podcast this week, our guest is veteran bartender Jeff Bell from legendary drinking den PDT in New York City. Jeff is the consulting master blender of an exciting new American born brandy called BERTOUX Brandy. It recently launched in New York and here in California where I caught up with Jeff at their recent launch party. Coming off of my visit to Cognac, this was great timing to introduce you listeners to all things brandy and prep for our Cognac series coming up soon.
This week’s featured cocktail is a Sidecar with specs from Jeff Bell
Bertoux Brandy Sidecar
1.5 oz of Bertoux Brandy
3/4 oz of Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Cointreau
1/4 oz Simple syrup
lemon wedge, granulated white sugar
To sugar a rim on a coupe glass, swipe a lemon wedge around the top edge of the glass and then dip into a sugar filled saucer to coat the rim with sugar. Place all cocktail ingredients into an ice-filled shaker and shake until well chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe glass with sugared rim.
This week’s podcast guest has been a long time coming – New York-based spirits and cocktail writer, Kara Newman. Kara is the Spirits Editor for Wine Enthusiast and is the author of multiple cocktail books including the forthcoming little gem: Nightcap: More than 40 Cocktails to Close Out Any Evening – available October 16th.
I caught up with Kara at the recent BevCon drinks conference here in LA – her very first visit to LA! – and we might have indulged in a few nightcaps of our own at my place in the middle of the day. Whoops!
Open & Shut
1 1/2 oz Amaro Lucano
1/2 oz of Cognac
Combine Amaro and Cognac in a rocks glass with no ice, and stir. Garnish is optional, a lemon or orange peel is nice. In Julia Momose’s words: “Simply build in the glass, retire to bed, sip, and ease yourself into slumber.”