A Champagne Toast

It’s New Years Eve again. And what better way to celebrate than with a traditional glass of bubbly. But perhaps you are tired of the mundane, and looking to spice up your drink a bit. Well here a couple of drinks sure to make your New Years just that much better!

The Champagne Cocktail
1 Sugar Cube
Angostura Bitters

Simple and effective, the addition of a bitters soaked sugar cube livens up the champagne, and the extra bubbles rising up your flute add that dramatic flourish.

The Kir Royale and other Twists
3/4 oz Creme de Cassis

Simple adding a liqueur such as Cassis, St. Germain, Chartreuse, Aperol, or anything similar gives a nice flavor addition while still retaining that classic champagne cocktail feel.

The French 75
2 oz Gin
1 oz Lemon juice
1 tsp Simple Syrup

Occasionally made with Cognac vs Gin, this champagne cocktail is strong and tasty. For those who aren’t big champagne fans, you can also substitute the bubbly with either a Belgian beer to keep the sweetness, or a nice IPA for a little more bitterness.

Soyer Au Champagne
2 dashes Maraschino
2 dashes Brandy
2 dashes Grand Marnier
2 dashes Pineapple Juice
1 scoop Vanilla Ice Cream

This one is more of a dessert drink and it fits the bill perfectly. Sweet and creamy, this drink is masterfully blended to create a complex, flavorful cocktail that really hits the spot.

The Seelbach Cocktail
1 oz Bourbon
1/2 oz Cointreau
7 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
7 dashes Angostura Bitters

This one is for the whiskey lovers out there. Paired with a very generous amount of bitters, this one is for those who would otherwise be drinking Old Fashioneds and Sazeracs.

So there you have it, several variations that are sure to please everyone’s palate. So go out, celebrate and enjoy responsibly. Cheers!


Vintage Cocktails #74: The Vowel Cocktail

It’s been a while since I have mixed up a cocktail from Vintage Spirits, partly due to the fact that there are only a few left and partly because I am missing some ingredients. Luckily for me, one of my favorite bartenders in town happened to pick up some Kümmel on his last liquor excursion.

Called for in just a few drinks, this caraway flavored liqueur works well in this cocktail, blending in with the Scotch and Vermouth. It doesn’t stand out, but instead provides a subtle addition to the drink. Be sure to use a less peaty/smoky scotch in this one. Cheers!

The Vowel Cocktail
1oz Scotch Whisky
1oz Sweet Vermouth
1/2oz Orange Juice
1/2oz Kümmel
Dash Angostura Bitters

Guinness Black Lager Label

Beer of the Week: Guinness Black Lager

Guinness has a new beer in town, and it is breaking it’s age old tradition of brewing stouts by producing a black lager.

With the idea of recreating the distinctive flavor profile of their famous Stout, but in a crisper, refreshing style that will better compete with the other lagers being produced by some of the worlds biggest breweries.

Technically a Schwarzbier, the Guinness Black Lager pours just like their traditional stout, but without the rich, creamy head. The aromas are of gentle malt roastiness coupled with English hop aromas and a very clean yeastiness. The flavors are very guinness-like, with dry roast and bitter hops paired with the whistle clean lager yeast. The mouthfeel is clean and dry without any astringincy. All in all, a easy drinking lager that is sure to be welcomed by lovers of Guinness’s flagship stout. Cheers!

Rating: ★★★½☆


Anvil Bar and Refuge

This last week, while on vacation in Houston, I had the opportunity to finally check out Anvil Bar and Refuge. Anvil is the creation of Bobby Heugel, one of Forbes’ 30 under 30: Food and Wine, and is one of, if not the best bar in town for cocktail nerds like myself. Anvil focuses exclusively in prohibition-era cocktails made from scratch with homemade infusions, fresh juices, fresh garnishes, and a great selection of spirits and liqueurs. In addition, Anvil also offers a fantastic selection of micro/craft beers on tap, usually including a cask conditioned beer.

The Space
The space now occupied by Anvil was previously a tire shop. The walls have been stripped down to bare brick, and the whole space has a sort of vintage, weathered look. It reminds me of an old blacksmith or butchers shop. On one side of the room is the bar. It is very long and wraps around the far corner of the room, and has room for about 25-30 seats. On the opposing side are booths and small tables, with a decently sized open area between them. Total capacity for the bar is around 60 seats.

The bar top is weathered steel with nice rolled edges, so it feels very comfortable. The foot rail is an old train track from 1952, and the back bar shelving is vintage pallet racking, that has been cut off to an appropriate shelf depth. When a trip to the restroom is in order, you walk through an old, heavy, wooden cooler door that was previously in a butcher shop. Above the door, in an alcove, are hundreds of old wine bottles, sitting in a rack and gathering dust. The whole place has an air of both the past and the present. It is a very cool space.

The Drinks
Anvil prides itself on a pre-prohibition era style of bartending. Their menu is relatively small compared to many other classic cocktail bars that I have been to, yet it contains a variety of drinks to suit most anyones taste. It also changes on a seasonal rotation, so there is usually something new to be found.

As soon as we seated ourselves at the bar, we were greeted and given large glasses of ice water, excellent service which more bars should attempt to emulate. For our first round, both Kate and I ordered from the menu. I had the Tin Pan Alley, a blend of hazelnut infused bourbon, lime and orgeat, served over crushed ice and garnished with a trio of roasted hazelnuts. Kate had the Waltzing Matilda: gin, sauvingnon blanc, lemon, passionfruit and house ginger beer, served in a tall glass and garnished with a wedge of lemon and a sprig of mint. Both drinks were delicious.

For our second round, we deviated from the menu and ordered a Sazerac and a Rye Manhattan, of which we were informed that rye was always how they served their Manhattans. These drinks, while good, fell a little bit short of the previous two. My Sazerac came to me garnished with a beautiful strip of fragrant lemon, but the anise flavors from the absinthe rinse were almost non-existant. It was still very delicious, but missing some of those aromas that I really enjoy. Kate’s Manhattan was served in a nice coupe glass and garnished with what I presumed to be a house brandied cherry. The Manhattan is the drink that really fell short for us. It was just a little bit thin in flavor. I’m not really sure why, but it just wasn’t up to the standard that I would expect of Anvil. Worst of all, the Manhattan was several dollars more than our other drinks. I’m still trying to figure that one out.

I didn’t get a chance to try any of the beers, but most are priced between 6 and 8 dollars a pint, which seems a little high to me. All in all, I was still very impressed with Anvil and everything that they have going on. If you are in Houston, or even just visiting, it is worth checking out. Cheers!

Beer of the Week: Ninkasi Imperiale Stout

Known primarily for their excellent IPA’s, Ninkasi also has an excellent rotation of seasonal ales. The Imperiale is new for 2011, and is a 9.1% abv, 70 IBU, imperial stout brewed with 2 Row, Munich, Crystal, Carapils, Carafa and Black malts and hopped with Nugget hops.

It pours a jet black color with a thick cappuccino like head. On the nose, there are noticeable alcohol aromas, but the roast malt and hop aromas keep it in check. On the tongue this beer is a kick in the face, a boozy, malty drink perfect for a cold winter evening. It’s packed with roasted malt, dark plum, and a hint of coffee, with the sharp bittersweet hops balancing it all out. While this brew is incredibly well-balanced, it is also quite heavy and is very suited to be a sipping beer. It is complex, but simple enough for newer converts to the craft brew world. Cheers!

Rating: ★★★½☆