Category Archives: Spirits

Day 22 Gift Ideas – Spice & Ice, Cabana Cachaca and the Perfect Puree

As we rapidly approach the holiday, a great idea for a gift or for your own cocktail library is a copy of “Spice & Ice” by Kara Newman, my guest on Episode 20. This is a great book if you like your cocktails a little on the spicy side – author of the High Spirits column for Chile Pepper magazine, Kara is the perfect coach for crafting beverages that bite. With suggestions for food pairings, facts about chile peppers, and tips on building a spicy liquor cabinet, Spice & Ice is a must-have for cocktail enthusiasts and chileheads! $11.45 on Amazon.

Find out more at

Add to this a bottle of Cabana Cachaca…founder Matti Anttila was a guest on Episode 16. Cachaca is Brazil’s national spirit…Cabana has a delicate nose and a smooth finish, perfect in a caipirinha. It retails for approximately $35.

Find out more at

Lastly, add a few flavors of The Perfect Puree’s Beverage Artistry line of mixers to the bag. Corporate Mixologist Dana Bruner was my guest on Episode 23.

The Perfect Purée of Napa Valley’s Beverage Artistry® capitalizes on the current trends in the beverage world, enabling even the most discerning beverage artist to exceed the limits of their palate imagination. Unique, balanced and iconic flavors provide a platform upon which creativity has no boundaries – every glass is a liquid canvas.  Some of the flavors to try are El Corazon, Mojito, Rum Runner and White Sangria. $25.

Find out more at



Leave a comment

Filed under Cocktails, Drinks, Liqueurs, Mixology, Napa, Spirits

Day 21 Gifts – Cocktail Time with Eastern Standard Kitchen and St-Germain

The gift ideas for Day 21 take us to one of my favorite places in Boston, Eastern Standard Kitchen in Kenmore Square. Just steps away from Fenway Park, it’s a great place to go before or after the game (or anytime, really!) Jackson Cannon, Bar Manager & Mixologist extraordinnaire, was my guest on Episode 28, and was so interesting & fun to speak with. A great gift would be a gift card to Eastern Standard Kitchen or their new sister restaurant, Island Creek Oyster Bar, which is right next door. The menu pays tribute to classic European and New England favorites, such as Veal Schnitzel, Beef Wellington and Mussels & Frites as well as a fantastic raw bar. Jackson has a great cocktail program going on in both places, as well as a fabulous reserve beer program at ICOB.

You can check them out at

I discovered St-Germain about two years ago, and still love it every time I taste it…especially the St-Germain Cocktail and Sangria Flora. I was so exited to have Founder & President of The Cooper Spirits Company, Rob Cooper, as my guest on Episode 30. The cocktail enthusaist in your life would love a bottle of St-Germain, or if you can find it, a St-Germain Carafe Set.

St-Germain is a beautifully crafted, French elderflower liqueur made from 100% fresh elderflowers from the foothills of the Alps. Only available in limited quantities, each bottle of St-Germain is numbered and marked with the vintage year reflecting the year in which the flowers were harvested. It can be enjoyed straight over ice but is ideal in cocktails as well as mixed with white or sparkling wine. The limited edition sets include a bottle of St-Germain, a Glass Carafe and Stirrer and a Cocktail Recipe Book.

Find out more at



Leave a comment

Filed under Beer, Champagne, Cocktails, Drinks, Liqueurs, Mixology, Restaurants, Spirits

Day 19 Gift – A Margarita Basket – Tequila Avion & Combier Liqueur d’Orange

Our gift selection for Day 19 takes us to two of our entrepreneurial guests: Ken Austin, Founder of Tequila Avion (Episode 22) and Scott Goldman, President of Cadre Noir, importers of Combier Liqueur d’Orange (Episode 17).

If you have someone on your list who loves a good margarita, this would be a fantastic gift basket! First, a bottle of Tequila Avion Anejo, which is produced with only the finest Blue Weber Agave found in the highest regions of Jalisco, Mexico.  Made famous on the hit tv series “Entourage”, it’s now available in many states across the country.The Anejo, which is aged 2 years, has hints of vanilla, caramel, coconut and maple and fruity aromas of peach and cherry. It retails for approximately $50.

Find out more at

You can’t make a good margarita without triple sec, so add a bottle of Combier Liqueur d’Orange to the basket…created  in 1834, Combier is the world’s first triple sec, made from sweet and bitter orange peels from the West Indies, local spices from the South, alcohol from the North, and family-secret ingredients from the Loire Valley. Combier uses all natural ingredients, it’s 80 proof (40% alcohol by volume) and it’s triple distilled. Each bottle of Combier is produced, packaged, and shipped from the same Loire Valley location where it’s been made since the 19th century. It retails for approximately $35.

Learn more at



Leave a comment

Filed under Cocktails, Drinks, Liqueurs, Mixology, Spirits

Day 17 Gift Idea – Simply Ming & Blue Ginger

I have long been a fan of Chef Ming Tsai and his fabulous restaurant Blue Ginger, so I was thrilled when he was my guest on Episode 21 in October. A great gift idea for the home chef in your life is a copy of Ming’s latest book “Simply Ming One-Pot Meals“. As someone who loves to cook, but not clean up, this is ideal! The book has 80 one-pot recipes that can be created quickly and healthfully, with relatively inexpensive ingredients….many recipes can serve 4 people for under $20.  Ming focuses on seven cooking methods: braise, wok, sauté, roast, high temp–which includes steaming and flash frying–soup, and toss. He offers preparation tips and drink suggestions, and each recipe is accompanied by a full-color photo.

List price is $29.95 ($19.77 on Amazon).

To this, add a gift card to Blue Ginger, his beautiful restaurant in Wellesley MA. Ming and his team create award-winning cuisine that harmoniously blends ingredients and techniques from the East and the West. The menu offers signature items including the Sake-Miso Marinated Alaskan Butterfish (my favorite) and the Garlic-Black Pepper Lobster as well as seasonal dishes. All breads, crackers, ice creams and desserts are made in-house by the pastry department. Blue Ginger also has a beverage menu that really complements their East-West cuisine. Signature cocktails include the Blue Ginger Gimlet and the Golden Goose, a ginger-infused vodka martini, and they have an extensive wine cellar.

You can buy online at



Leave a comment

Filed under Chefs, Cocktails, Drinks, Food Network, Restaurants, Spirits, Wine

Day 13 of our 25 Days of Holiday Gifts – The Art of the Bar & Square One

Our Day 13 Gift Idea takes us to San Francisco, one of the cities that has been at the forefront of the resurgence of well-made, classic cocktails. Jeff Hollinger & Rob Schwartz, my guests on Episode 5, were part of that movement when they ran the bar at Absinthe. Their book “The Art of the Bar: Cocktails Inspired by the Classics” is loaded with beautiful photos and great drink recipes. It’s $16.47 on Amazon (list price $25).

To that, add a bottle of Square One Organic Vodka. Founder & CEO Allison Evanow, who is based in San Francisco, was my guest on Episode 11. Square One is a  limited-production single grain vodka which uses certified organic American rye. It retails for approximately $35. You can find out more at



Leave a comment

Filed under Cocktails, Drinks, Liqueurs, Mixology, Restaurants, Spirits

Day 10 of Our “25 Days of Holiday Gift Ideas” – The Modern Mixologist

Day 10 is about one of our favorite mixologists – as a matter of fact he is known as The Modern Mixologist –  Tony Abou-Ganim. Tony was a guest on Episode 15, and I had so much fun talking to him about his career, travels and wonderful cocktails he has created over the years.

A great gift for the cocktail person on your list would be a copy of Tony’s book, The Modern Mixologist ($35). Autographed copies are available if you order through his website.

To that, add one of his TAG Mojito Kits ($49), which includes one of the best juicers I have ever seen, a beautiful hand-crafted solid cherry wood muddler all tucked into a canvas Lewis bag, perfect for crushing ice.

If you’re feeling generous, also include a copy of Tony’s Modern Mixologist DVD ($19.95), all about creating perfect cocktails at home.

And, if you hurry, he also has embroidered cocktail napkins on sale for $2 for a set of 6 while they last!

You can find out more at



Leave a comment

Filed under Cocktails, Drinks, Food Network, Liqueurs, Mixology, Spirits

Day 8 of our “25 Days of Holiday Gift Ideas” – Maker’s Mark

Day 8 of our Holiday Gift ideas is about one of my favorite brands, Maker’s Mark. I was lucky to have worked on Maker’s during my years at Allied Domecq Spirits, and was thrilled to have the wonderful Bill Samuels, Jr., President of Maker’s Mark on Episode 13.

This was a big year for Maker’s, with the successful introduction of Maker’s 46, the first new line extension for the brand since it’s founding in 1953.

There are SO many fun gift items available…here are a few of my favorites:

A beautiful leather flask ($49.95), a 14 oz. shaker ($14.95), hand-dipped rocks glasses ($7.95), a fun apron in the shape of a Maker’s bottle ($24.95) and a box of Maker’s Mark Bourbon Chocolates ($15.95).

You can check these as well as some other fantastic gift ideas on their website While you’re there, sign up to become a Maker’s Mark Ambassador…it’s free and a lot of fun!



Leave a comment

Filed under Cocktails, Drinks, Spirits

Day 5 of our “25 Days of Holiday Gift Ideas” – Boston Wine & Dine

Day 5 is about Boston and some of the great guests we’ve had from my hometown…

First up is a gift card or a gift basket from The Urban Grape, a fantastic new wine shop in Chestnut Hill that is co-owned by TJ Douglas, our guest on Episode 9, and his wife Hadley. The Urban Grape is featuring several gorgeous gift baskets made by Table & Tulip – this one is a pair of Hudson “Baby Bourbon” and “Four Grain” Bourbon bottles nestled in a lush mood moss accented with succulents in your choice of silver metallic box or reclaimed wood box. Check it out at

To that, how about adding a gift card to Russell House Tavern, one of the hottest restaurants just over the Charles River in Cambridge? Executive Chef Michael Scelfo and Bar Manager Aaron Butler were also guests on Episode 9.  The Russell House Tavern is a New American Tavern serving seasonally-inspired, classic dishes from New England, specializing in artisanal fare served alongside carefully hand-crafted cocktails and a distinctive collection of all-American wines and craft beers.

Sound like perfect gifts to me…



Leave a comment

Filed under Beer, Champagne, Cocktails, Drinks, Liqueurs, Restaurants, Sommeliers, Spirits, Wine

Day 4 of Our “25 Days of Holiday Gift Ideas” – The Craft of the Cocktail

Day 4 is all about The Cocktail…we have been so fortunate to have some of the most legendary people in the cocktail world on our show this year.

King Cocktail” himself, Mr. Dale DeGroff, was our guest in August (Episode 14). A wonderful gift for any cocktail buff or aspirational mixologist on your list would be copies of Dale’s two books…”The Craft of the Cocktail” and “The Essential Cocktail”…both are available on for $23.10.

Dale also has a fantastic “Craft of the Cocktail” card deck, which includes fifty fabulous cocktail recipes created by Dale and also includes bartending tips for preparing, mixing, and serving drinks in style. It’s $10.17 on Amazon.

If you really want to be a hero, add a bottle of Absolut or Beefeater to the cocktail gift bag. Those are products from Pernod-Ricard….Suzanne Freedman, Pernod-Ricard’s Director of On-Premise was also a guest on Episode 14 with Dale.

The person who recieves these will be very happy!



Leave a comment

Filed under Cocktails, Drinks, Liqueurs, Restaurants, Spirits

“Top Shelf” at L’Espalier – Cocktails inspired by The Great Gatsby

I am extremely fortunate that as a member of the wine & spirits industry media, I get invited to a lot of fantastic food, wine and cocktail events as part of my job. The other night, I got to go to an event that I have wanted to attend for quite some time, but scheduling conflicts prevented me. That’s why I cleared the decks when I found out that the fabulous Kate Moore, sommelier at Boston’s infamous L’Espalier, was hosting one of her “Top Shelf” cocktail events last Thursday.

If you’re not familiar, L’Espalier is often credited with being the first independently owned restaurant to bring haute cuisine to Boston, and doing so with a trailblazing commitment to using local, fresh ingredients from New England. Located on Boylston Street when it opened in 1978, L’Espalier moved to a historic Back Bay townhouse in 1982, only to return to Boylston Street in 2008 where it currently resides adjacent to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

Under Chef, Proprietor, Author and now Farmer Frank McClelland’s stewardship, L’Espalier has consistently been rated at the top of national and local best restaurant lists (Zagat, Boston Magazine, Frommer’s Travel Guide, Wine Spectator, among them). The restaurant has received numerous accolades including the “Distinguished Restaurant Award” from Mimi Sheraton, as well as being the first New England restaurant to receive four stars from The Boston Globe food critic, Alison Arnett. In 1996, Nation’s Restaurant News bestowed L’Espalier with its highest honor, inducting the restaurant into its “Fine Dining Hall of Fame.”  L’Espalier is the only independent restaurant in New England to receive eleven consecutive AAA Five Diamond Awards (the only Boston restaurant with this distinction) and also has earned twelve consecutive Mobil (now Forbes) Four-Star awards.  

Sommelier Kate Moore, who is amazingly elegant, well-spoken, knowledgeable and fun, has been conducting her “Top Shelf” cocktail classes for some time. She has devised many themes for these “Top Shelf” Classes – the last one was a “Mad Men/Rat Pack” theme, while the one I attended was “The Great Gatsby, Cocktails from the 1920’s”.

The setting for our event was a private dining room on the first floor – intimate enough for the ten guests of the evening. There were four couples, another guest and myself around the table. Kate says that they have Top Shelf events with dozens of guests in attendance, which may be held in the Salon or Library.

Kate began by pouring us each a glass of Roederer Estate Sparkling Wine as we waited for everyone to arrive. Introductions were made, and it turned out that although we had all been to L’Espalier many times, this was everyone’s first “Top Shelf”.

Once everyone was settled, Kate began by explaining that the 1920’s was her favorite period – she loved “The Great Gatsby”, the Prohibition era, and the “decadence and debauchery” that was associated with it. She asked why we had all chosen to attend this particular class, and the answers ranged from wanting to know more about the cocktails of that era to being fans of “The Great Gatsby”.

The first cocktail she served was a “Clover Club”, which had been created at an all men’s club in Pennsylvania called The Belvedere. It consisted of Beefeater Gin, fresh lemon juice, house-made raspberry & mint syrup and a frothed egg white. As we sipped on the delicious and beautiful cocktail, Kate shared that she collected hats and flapper outfits, and looked at the era as one of “relaxation” between the two stressful periods of WWI and the Great Depression. A waiter walked around with an assortment of fresh bread, foccacia and pretzel rolls, and then with some delicious small bites, which were paired with each cocktail. To go with the Clover Club, the Chef had prepared a house-made caraway bagel bite with smoke salmon and crème fraiche, which was delicious.

 The second cocktail of the night was a “Jack Rose”, consisting of Applejack, fresh cider, brown sugar simple syrup and a squeeze of lemon. This was paired with an amazing wild mushroom risotto that had been topped with a garlic chip and shavings of summer truffle. The inspiration for the “Jack Rose” came from the character of the same name in Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises”, which was published in 1926.

The ten guests chatted as we enjoyed the cocktails and small bites. Kate had some great music playing in the background, vintage cocktail shakers to make the drinks, and took the time to walk around discussing some of the finer points of the drinks and their history to the mixology fans in the room.

Next up was the “Brandy Daisy”, which was my favorite cocktail of the evening. Kate mixed brandy (a VSOP), yellow chartreuse, fresh lemon juice and a splash of seltzer. Named after the heroine of the book, Daisy Buchanan, the cocktail was delicious, revealing different layers of complexity with each sip. It had a beautiful aroma on the nose, surprising one guest, as he thought that was “more of a wine thing than a cocktail thing”. The Daisy Buchanan was paired with perfect crescent shaped veal and pork dumplings, accompanied by a honey soy glaze for dipping. The conversation turned to how Kate makes her cocktails – hard shakes, gentle stirs, house-made syrups and finding inspiration in the ingredients she comes across in the L’Espalier kitchen each night. She also mentioned that she had just returned from New York City the night before, where she participated in (and came in second!) the Star Chefs “Sommelier Smackdown”.

Then, in a stroke of brilliance, Kate passed around her copy of “The Great Gatsby”, instructing us to randomly open the book and read from that page. As we each took a turn, it was quite interesting to see how many references there were to cocktails and “old sport”.  It was fun, rather than reminding us of being in a high school English class, and helped to bring more 1920’s flavor to the evening.

The last cocktail of the night was “Kate’s Bootlegger”, a delicious combination of dark rum, clement rhum, pineapple, mango and coconut water. It was beautifully paired with lamb samosa and a curried mint cream – a perfect way to end the evening.

Kate is equally passionate and knowledgeable about wine and food, and is currently working towards her Master Sommelier certificate. She also takes much enjoyment in (and is very talented at) creating or re-creating classic cocktails, pairing them with the perfect food, and sharing them with both old and new friends alike.

Her upcoming October & November “Top Shelf” theme is “Top Shelf, Top Chef”, which will include cocktails inspired by these iconic chefs:

October 7: Alice Waters, Chez Panisse
October 21: Anthony Bourdain, Les Halles
November 4: Jacques Pepin & Pierre Franey
November 18: Ferran Adria, El Bulli

You can find out more information about L’Espalier and “Top Shelf” classes, as well as make reservations on their website Cheers!

Comments Off on “Top Shelf” at L’Espalier – Cocktails inspired by The Great Gatsby

Filed under Chefs, Cocktails, Drinks, Restaurants, Sommeliers, Spirits, Wine