My tall drink of choice is the gin & tonic. A perfect expression of crystal and vivid green: icy, aromatic gin and brisk tonic poured over a column of translucent ice cubes, further pepped by a wedge of fresh lime and finished with a tall, leafy spring of mint. Often seen as a summer concoction, I find myself enjoying it year round. No matter the time of year, it's gorgeous, refreshing, and reviving. It's also a safe standard, the cocktail that I know I'll always enjoy. I mean, how many different ways can you make a G&T?
Starting on October 1st, everyone is focused on Halloween. Decorations adorn store windows, costume party e-vites are sent. A holiday that I always thought was meant for the enjoyment of children has morphed into a national party, but I for one can’t fully embrace the hoopla. My mind is already on Thanksgiving, that holiday in November that everyone likes to forget, so busy are we with Halloween parties and Christmas decorating preparations. But why? Thanksgiving is a day dedicated to appreciating our blessings while we share rich, delicious food with friends and family who we might not see that often the rest of the year.
Wonderful wines come from all over the world, but disappointingly few regions spring to mind for most consumers looking for versatility: for a bottle for tonight’s dinner, a gift for a favorite friend, or life’s many other wine occasions. After France, Italy, Spain, and California, we are often hard pressed to come up with another region that might offer just what they’re looking for. One country to keep in mind is Austria.
Vermouth!—wait, I’m sorry, did you just cringe? Are you reliving bad memories? An inextricable component in some of our most-beloved classic cocktails (Manhattans, Martinis, and Negronis, to name a few), the misunderstood drink draws wincing reactions from most of us. Plus, as a solo performer over ice, we stare dumbstruck at waiters in Little Italy who offer vermouth as a post-dinner digestif or cautiously laugh every time our Spanish friends have a glass before their meal. Almost certainly, your tiny bottle of vermouth occupies an inglorious position at the back of your home bar, complemented by a coat of dust. What gives? Why does this much-maligned “mixer” get such a bad rap?
At last, fall is upon us. It’s a new season in so many ways: a new school year, a new year for just about every cultural pursuit from publishing to the performing and visual arts, with their attendant events and parties. Autumn’s scintillating, cool air and dazzling foliage energize us as the lethargy brought on by summer’s heat and humidity slips away. Time to get busy, make plans, make dinner—time to entertain!
There you are, planning a lovely dinner: cocktails to start the evening, perfect wines to accompany dinner, followed by…what? One elegant way to end a meal that might not immediately spring to mind is with an exotic, wondrous elixir—eau de vie. The clear, colorless fruit brandy captures a particular fruit’s essential flavors, clearing the palate with purity and snap. French for “water of life,” eau de vie is produced by fermentation of ripe fruit—classically other than grapes—followed by double distillation and quick bottling. Different places around the world call it different things; the Germans sip Schnapps, while the Turks enjoy Raki, and in Hungary they savor Palinka.
Tucked away between two mountain ranges in northern Mendocino County, just east of the iconic redwoods and two hours north of the Golden Gate Bridge, California’s Potter Valley is a world away from the more famous Napa when it comes to winemaking culture. Gone are the giant corporate producers, the gleaming tasting rooms, the well-oiled tourism machine. For many in this one-stoplight town, these amenities are hardly missed. What’s lost in shininess is gained in value. Though there are certainly excellent small producers in Napa and Sonoma as well, good values there have become few and far between—the regions’ relative international fame jacks up demand, which in turn skyrockets prices. For now, Potter Valley is different.
Shiraz or Syrah? Same grape, so many different expressions. And where does Petite Sirah fit into the mix? (Hint: it’s an entirely different grape.) Most people think they know Syrah, but in many cases there's more to learn. Given all the different pseudonyms and styles, it's no wonder confusion abounds! No matter what you call it, no matter what style you’re buying, Syrah has a long and complicated history. Despite the popular myth, this grape does not come from the city of Shiraz in Iran.
Oaxaca stretches out across the southern part of Mexico, anchored by hauntingly blue waters along the length of its southwest edge. It is a hot, lush, green state, dotted with bands of hills and imposing conquest-era churches. In this region, mezcal was made long before there were legal outlines for its production. In the heart of the Central Valley is San Dionisio Ocotepec, a bustling village that dates back to the 17th century and has born witness to the entire history of mezcal. It is here in this historic little town that Beto Morales and the Morales family craft and produce their own version of the spirit: Wahaka (named comically after the way that “Oaxaca” is phonetically pronounced).
If you’re anything like me, you love dining out. Exploring New York City through its restaurants—whether we’re talking holes-in-the-wall or Michelin-starred establishments—is a fantastic way to get to know the five boroughs a little more intimately. From the Village to Williamsburg to the Bronx’s Arthur Avenue or Jackson Heights in Queens, menus create their own sort of map. And if, like me, you always ask for the wine list, you’ve probably noticed a recent trend: wine programs highlighting domestic producers who work with Old World varieties and lower-alcohol, higher acid, less extracted styles.