A couple weeks back, Reyka Vodka mixed things up with a night of delicious cool weather cocktails with National Brand Ambassador Trevor Schneider and Barter Beverage Director, Rocco Milano. We were treated to three delicious cocktails (recipes below).
Reyka Vodka is an Icelandic vodka that uses lava rock filtration (which is so much better than that Brita shit) and the process is all made possible using geo-thermal energy powered by a local hot spring. Reyka is made in small batches to ensure each bottle is up to snuff.
750 ml bottle: $19.99
1.75 ml bottle: $29.95
For more information about Reyka and additional recipes, visit www.reyka.com.
Autumn Harvest (Created by Trevor Schneider) 2 oz. Reyka vodka
2 oz. apple cider
1/2 oz. velvet falernum
1/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
2 dashes apple bitters
Grated cinnamon for garnish (optional)
Lemon wedge for garnish (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with freshly grated cinnamon and garnish with lemon wedge.
Crimson Diamond (Created by Rocco Milano) 1.5 oz Reyka Vodka
1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
.75 oz Simple SyrupTop with red wine
Combine all ingredients except the wine into a shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a champagne flute and using a bar spoon slow pour a red wine float.
Basil and Lime (Created by Rocco Milano and on tap at Barter) 1.5 oz Reyka Vodka
1 oz Fresh Lime Juice
.75 oz Basil Syrup
.5 oz Amer Picon
Combine all ingredients into a shaker and shake vigorously. Fill an 8 oz footed Collins glass with crushed ice. Strain the shaker into the Collins glass. Smack a basil leaf to wake it up and add for garnish.
Ok, y’all … I love an expensive drink as much as the next person (which is not at all), but this one caught my attention. The head mixologist at Vitascope Hall in the Hyatt Regency New Orleans mixed up a cocktail that costs a pretty penny but will let Saints fans rep their team with more than just jerseys and face paint.
The cocktail is called Black & Gold … and by gold, they actually mean gold. It’s made with Absolut 100 vodka (just $34 for a 750ml), Champagne Charles Mignon “Cuvée Billionaires Row” Brut Rosé Grand Cru, and a splash of raspberry Chambord liqueur and chilled pineapple juice. Oh … and the icing on the cake … err … topping on the cocktail … there’s edible gold on top and a black and gold sugar rim. (How does one make gold edible? I’m just seeing a flashback to the day after a Goldschläger binge.)
The drink runs cocktail enthusiasts a cool hundy stick ($100). Because sometimes it takes money to show you’re a fan. (What?)
$100 Black & Gold Cocktail (Available at Vitascope Hall in the Hyatt Regency New Orleans)
2 oz. Absolut 100 Super Premium Vodka
½ oz. Chambord
3 oz. Champagne Charles Mignon “Cuvée Billionaires Row” Brut
Rosé Grand Cru
2 ½ oz. Pineapple Juice
Served with a black and gold sugar rim and topped with shaved edible gold.
About the Hyatt Regency New Orleans: Situated in the heart of downtown New Orleans, adjacent to Mercedes-Benz Superdome and just blocks from the historic French Quarter, Hyatt Regency New Orleans is a preferred destination for leisure and business travelers alike, boasting 1,193 strikingly sophisticated guest rooms, including 95 suites and four presidential suites. www.neworleans.hyatt.com.
I consider it fate and not merely a coincidence that two bottles of Skinnygirl Vodka appeared on my doorstep on October 3rd, less than 24 short hours away from October 4th, which just so happens to be NATIONAL VODKA DAY. As if that wasn’t enticement enough, Skinnygirl was kind enough to share some recipes featuring fall flavors (apple!) in order to help us kick off the season with a festive yet (practically) guilt-free libation! Ladies of DF/W (and guys … if you’re into that sort of thing), Halloween is rapidly approaching, and we need all the help we can get before it’s time to squeeze into this year’s “Sexy ____ “ (insert profession, zoo animal, beloved children’s character, etc.) getup.
First, a little bit about Skinnygirl Cocktails: Bethenny Frenkel’s (yup, that Bethenny Frenkel) line of low-calorie alcoholic indulgences came onto the scene with the introduction of the Skinnygirl Margarita back in 2011. Skinnygirls (and would-be Skinnygirls) near and far apparently clamored for more, as Bethenny has since rolled out a line of Skinnygirl ready-to-drink cocktails (I need to get my hands on the Skinnygirl mojito…), a Skinnygirl wine collection, and yes, a variety of Skinnygirl naturally flavored vodkas.
Skinnygirl Vodka with natural flavors is available in the following intriguing varieties:
– White Cherry Vodka
– Tangerine Vodka
– Island Coconut Vodka
– Cucumber Vodka
– Bare Naked Vodka
I received a bottle of the Skinnygirl Tangerine Vodka in addition to a bottle of the Skinnygirl Bare Naked Vodka for my sampling pleasure. I enlisted my boyfriend to join me in my taste-testing endeavor, and he agreed to do so. (Though he did request that I refer to this product line as, “Skinnypeople Vodka” in my write-up. Request denied.)
I prepared two of the “fall flavor” cocktails based on recipes Skinnygirl provided. I will give the disclaimer that each of these recipes can be prepared with either apple juice or apple cider. I was disappointed to learn that my neighborhood grocery store had yet to roll out their apple cider for the season when I went to pick up my non-alcoholic goodies, so I had to go the AJ route*. If you decide to replicate these tasty little treats, I might go for the cider if you have it available. I mean, why wouldn’t you?
*Note from Susie: surprisingly, WalMart usually has Martinelli’s Apple Cider in stock.
First, the unanimous favorite: the Crisp Apple Cooler. This seemingly simple cocktail consisted of Skinnygirl Bare Naked Vodka, apple juice, agave syrup, and a green apple garnish. Easy enough to throw together, right? This cocktail tasted like a delicious candy apple in a glass. The Skinnygirl Bare Naked Vodka was perfectly smooth and blended beautifully with my mixers. We could not discern that this was a low-calorie alternative to classic vodka. In other news, I think this would be uhh-mazing with a caramel rim. Wait, does that defeat the purpose of sipping on low-calorie booze? Let’s consider it a compromise.
Crisp Apple Cooler 1 ½ parts Skinnygirl® Bare Naked Vodka
¾ part apple juice
¼ part agave syrup
Green apple slice for garnish
Stir agave syrup with vodka in the base of a shaker until the agave syrup dissolves. Add apple juice and shake thoroughly with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a green apple slice.
Next, the Fall Festival-tini, consisting of Skinnygirl Tangerine Vodka, apple juice, light rum, and lemon for garnish. The tangerine flavor added some subtle interest to this grown-up apple juice concoction. I might suggest skipping the rum and doubling up on the Skinnygirl Tangerine if you are looking for a citrusy kick; especially if you are going the apple cider route. Heck, you could even get fancy and toss in some cinnamon, or nutmeg, for a festive punch.
Fall Festival-tini 1 part Skinnygirl® Tangerine Vodka
3 parts apple juice/cider
½ part light rum
Lemon wedge for garnish
Mix ingredients in a shaker, and pour into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge.
Just for good measure, we also sampled the Skinnygirl Tangerine Vodka on the rocks … you know, in the name of science. We found it to be light and refreshing, without any kind of a fake, “diet” taste. This was a pleasant surprise. With Skinnygirl’s help, I will be slithering into that “Sexy Orphan Annie” costume in no time.
Here are some additional Skinnygirl recipes, for your low-calorie sipping pleasure.
*Samples were provided free of charge. Thanks, Skinnygirl!*
Kickstarter. what can’t it do? Whether you’re looking for a reboot of some random TV show by people who already have plenty of money but don’t want to risk their own or just some delicious potato salad, it’s there for you. While potato salad is great and all, someone decided that it was time to use the voice of the people to make scotch. (The team here at SDD was totally behind it.)
Carin Luna-Ostasekski took it upon herself to use her Kickstarter funds to create SIA Scotch Whiskey, a “brand for consumers who don’t even know they like scotch yet.” This is notable not just because she has entered a traditionally male-dominated segment of the spirit industry, but she is also doing it in San Francisco. I can’t do her full story justice here, but you should definitely check it out at siascotch.com. TL:DR – creative type gets an itch to learn the ins and outs of something, works hard and creates a great spirit.
All of the media materials sent talked about how the goal of the product was to be versatile and approachable – not just the old, smoky, peaty stuff that makes some folks drool and others cringe and reach for the nearest cocktail menu.
So, with this in mind (and me badly in need of a drink at the end of the work day), I poured a glass neat and took a few sips. The vanilla taste was immediate, but it sipped much more smoothly than most and didn’t finish too strong. After a few more sips, it was clear that I had a great sipping scotch. Just to see what happened, I poured a bit more and added a drop of water and the flavors opened a little bit with some toffee notes coming out under the vanilla. I also put some on the rocks and was very happy with that as well.
I was imagining a ton of cocktail recipes with each sip – especially for fall. In fact, I’m planning to revisit a few recipes at a later date, but I was so happy drinking this neat, I didn’t want to stop. And for me, that’s probably the best endorsement I can give it.
I’ll go ahead and say it … we’re dealing with a gateway spirit (in the best way possible). I’m not sure how much a scotch purist will like this scotch, but this is a perfect spirit for someone looking to bridge between the standard Maker’s/Jack/Crown frontier into something different. If you like the standard North American bourbons, I’d definitely recommend grabbing SIA on your next trip to the store and seeing if it opens your palate for the heavier end of the spectrum.
Last week I was privileged to attend a media dinner at a new Tex-Mex restaurant in Bluebonnet Circle, Pegaso Mexican Diner. The circle has made a huge turn around since the days of the Qui and Tiff and Andi’s. Now the circle is full of great restaurants and retail, and Pegaso is a wonderful addition to the neighborhood.
Pegaso is set up like Freebirds or Chipotle where you go through a line to build your plate. They also offer a few platters were everything is already chosen for you want a quick decision. The basics of the menu are: enchilada plates, burritos, burrito bowls, salad bowls, and street tacos. With almost everything, you pick your filling, sauce, and sides. My first experience was awesome because I was able to try a lot of the menu in small portions. I kept thinking about how good the food during the rest of my week that I went back a few days later for my weekend Mexican food fix. Going through the line for the first time was somewhat overwhelming with all of the choices. It was safe to say that I’m pretty sure I would not have been disappointed with anything I would have chosen. The simple things like the rice and refried beans are amazing. The food is such high quality (this is nothing like Taco Bell fast food).
Eventually they will be offering late night on weekends as well as breakfast.
I’ll admit it … I’m a queso fanatic. For that reason, I deem myself qualified to say that their queso blanco was amazing. My other top recommendations are the enchilada platter with chicken tinga, chipotle crema, vegan cilantro rice, and pinto refried beans. One of the best sides I have tried is the Spicy Mexican Elote (a corn dish with chipotle crema, mayonnaise, and queso fresco). This dish has a great mix of sweet and spicy flavors.
So awesome food, now what about the drinks? Yes, this is considered “fast casual”, but the margaritas are hand shaken using 100% agave Tequila (your choice of Silver, Reposado, or Anejo). I was a big fan of the skinny margarita on the rocks ($8.50). The cucumber margarita on the rocks ($10.00) was a refreshing twist on a traditional margarita and the cucumber mellowed out the sweetness.
Pegaso also offers a selection of domestic ($2.95), imported ($3.75), and local ($4.25) bottles. (I feel that I shouldn’t have to say that you can’t get the drinks to go … but I’ll err on the side of safety.)
All of the items at Pegaso are made with high quality ingredients and sustainable harvested produce when possible. They use healthy fats such as Canola oil in their fryer as well as accommodate any vegan request that is possible. This is a family-friendly restaurant with a very reasonably priced kids menu ($3.75).
PEGASO MEXICAN DINER
3516 Bluebonnet Circle
Fort Worth, Texas 76109 Website | Facebook
A couple weeks back, I had the opportunity to meet a true dynamo, Troy Ball. She’s a horse riding, blonde haired, mother of three who makes moonshine in Asheville, NC and a spark plug to boot. (Like, the kind of person I’d really like to be friends with. Like … actual friends that go to brunch and watch “Scandal” together.)
Her distillery is at the foot of the Blue Mountains in Asheville and they have family members that actually work there. They even use white corn sourced from a local farm to make their spirits. Troy & Sons’ moonshines were created when Troy learned that most back woods moonshiners (can I say that?) keep the best of each batch of moonshine for themselves and sell of the harsh leftovers. So, she decided to make good moonshine and give the people the best of it. (Nice.) The smoothness of all the T&S moonshines is incredibly surprising. We sipped each before trying them in cocktails, and both ways were enjoyable.
Troy & Sons Platinum Moonshine | The mildly sweet flavor of Platinum isn’t too powerful but still stands up nicely in cocktails. Unlike the name “moonshine” suggests, it doesn’t burn at all. The Platinum is also in a beautiful bottle (that I’m stoked to add to my new bar (cart) when I get it!) 80 proof, $29.99 for 750ml
Troy & Sons Oak Reserve Moonshine | While it’s bottled similarly to the Platinum, the flavors couldn’t be more different thanks to its six months of aging in bourbon barrels*. The short aging gives it a light amber color and slight flavor notes of caramel with a touch of pepper. It is smooooooth (oh baby) and was delicious in the cocktails that we were given during the tasting dinner. 80 proof, $39.99 for 750ml
Blonde Whiskey | The first of their “Blonde” line options, it is made from “the best grains of the old world to the latest in distilling technology.” The flavor is sweet with notes of vanilla, caramel, and honey earned during its 1.5 year aging in custom honeycomb barrels. This deliciousness SHOULD be sipped on its own, tainted only by the two cubes of ice (tops) if you MUST. 80 proof, $42.99 for 750ml
TROY & SONS – NOW AVAILABLE IN DALLAS
website | Facebook | Twitter Buy Online, available (at least) at Lark on the Park
*Troy told us the story about how she visited a well-know whiskey distillery and convinced them to give her their used bourbon barrels to age their Oak Reserve. She ended up saving their butts by connecting them with a barrel supplier when they needed new barrels during the barrel shortage (yes, there’s apparently a barrel shortage in the US). (Disclaimer: I think that’s the story. I heard it from the opposite side of the table after three tastings and four cocktails.)
One of the best parts of product reviews is finding my next new drink obsession. I have to say, I have tried many flavored waters to try to kick my Diet Coke habit, but haven’t been successful until now. Cascade Ice Water was generous enough to send me a few bottles of their coconut mango water and coconut pineapple water. I originally was just going to use these as a mixer (which I did), but also drank them straight up. I will definitely purchase more from this line of naturally flavored water. All of the flavors are zero-calorie, sugar-free, caffeine-free, sodium-free, gluten-free, and zero carbs. They have a great, natural flavor with light carbonation.
I used these as mixers for an easy vodka drink. There are some very yummy looking recipes on Cascade’s website that you should check out.
I will be on the lookout for other flavors to try. There are twenty-one flavors in the zero-calorie line as well as a Sparking Organic, Sparkling Essence, and Sparkling Mixer line. In our local area, Kroger and Sprouts carry the organic line and Albertson’s carries the zero calorie line. Check this link out to find Cascade Ice in your local area.
Chances are, you may already be familiar with NYLO Hotels’ Southside property; after all, the hotel is home to SODA Bar, NYLO’s trendy rooftop watering hole which boasts what is arguably one of the city’s best views of THE BEST SKYLINE IN THE WORLD (Nice try, Chicago. Better luck next time). Here is something you may not realize: The original NYLO hotel, which opened its doors in 2007, is located just up the road, in Plano. You may find yourself wondering: In the absence of the illustrious SODA Bar, what does Southside’s big bro to the north have to offer us suburbanites? Let me assure, the answer to this question is a resounding, “Plenty!”
I was lucky enough to receive an invitation to sample the new menu at NYLO’s restaurant and lounge, LOCL. Before I get into the highlights of the evening (food and booze, duh), I would be remiss in not mentioning how hip and unique this NYLO property truly is. Upon entering the lobby, I forgot that I was in Plano after about two seconds. The decor is modern minimalist, with dim lighting and geometric shapes and colors that give the lobby an art deco feel (hello, suspended egg chair). LOCL is NYLO’s indoor restaurant and lounge area, where the minimalist vibe continues, as evidenced by polished concrete floors and exposed ducting. Polished silver antlers adorn the chandeliers, giving you a subtle reminder that you are, in fact, still in Texas. The LOCL menu tasting event took place outside, on NYLO’s amazing terrace. I’m not really sure what NYLO could have done to make their courtyard (read: event space) any more awesome. The courtyard features a good-sized gazebo with a bar area, and beyond that lies a sleek lap pool, flanked with a giant, kick-ass fireplace. Just beyond the terrace, a large event tent beckons you to partake in a night of clumsy, drunken dancing at a wedding or office Christmas party.
Now, onto LOCL. I had the opportunity to sample four of LOCL’s fresh and inventive cocktails during this event:
First, my personal favorite, the “Grapefruitini” (Deep Eddy Ruby Red vodka, Cointreau, grapefruit juice, sugar rim, $12); The grapefruit juice in this tart and tangy cocktail made all the difference in the world; it tasted very fresh, and really made this drink pop. Riiiight up my alley. Yum.
The signature “NYLO Tini” (Tito’s vodka, pomegranate liquer, triple sec, pineapple juice, presecco, $12); Pomegranate lovers, this one is for you. The pom this drink brings to the table is not subtle!
The “Basil Lemondrop” (Tito’s Vodka, Cointreau, fresh lemon juice, fresh basil, sugar rim, $12); fresh and lovely, sweet with a hint of basil.
The “Southern Lady” (Tito’s, creme de cassis, triple sec, fresh lime juice, cranberry juice, pineapple, juice, prosecco, $12); Pineapple lovers, apply here. Aptly named, this drink was sweet and bubbly.
I did not fully appreciate when I arrived at this event how badly I would want to put on my stretchy pants by the end of the evening. I was fortunate enough to sample a LARGE selection of fun and creative dishes from LOCL’s newly revamped menu.
General Manager Joe Massar (a most gracious host, I might add) explained that Chef Anthony “Tony” Knight set forth to “step outside the box,” regarding the marriage of flavors and textures in his menu additions. An excellent example of this would be my favorite of the four appetizers we sampled, the “Green Apple Guac“. This was pretty much exactly what it sounds like: your traditional guacamole recipe, blended with small bits of crisp green apple. This at-first surprising flavor combination lent itself to a marriage of zesty and sweet; crunchy and creamy. In addition to the expected side of traditional corn tortilla chips, the guac was served with an assortment of fresh veggie slices, and yes, crisp green apple slices. This appetizer seemed to be a crowd favorite. Other tasty starters, or “Big Boards,” if you will, included “Shrimp Summer Rolls” with cashew cucumber sauce, the fresh and tasty “Ode to Acapulco Shrimp Cocktail” with zesty tomato and avocado, and “The Big Cheese,” a beautiful cheeseboard, featuring 5 farmstead cheeses, local honeycomb, dried fruit, and nutty bread (all “Big Boards” are $12 and feed 3-4 people).
We sampled three salads, including my personal preference, the gorgeous “Chop Chop,” which consisted of baby kale, mountains of crunchy vegetables, chopped egg, and a light, fresh vinegar based dressing. Fresh mint really popped in this salad. Also delicious were the “Toasted Haloumi Cheese” salad, featuring arugula, two kinds of tomatoes, generous chunks of cheese, and a hint of mint, and the “NYLO Caeser,“a deconstructed take on the traditional Caeser featuring parmesan cheese, anchovy filets, and DEEP FRIED ARTICHOKE HEARTS…yes, you read that right (All salads are $9; salads are large enough to share).
Following the appetizer and salad courses, I felt my food coma coming on…and that’s when the entrees made their appearance. The stars of the show were the “Peppered Flank Steak,” ($12) featuring tender strips of marinated beef seared to a lovely medium temperature accompanied by some delicious mushrooms that were definitely not of this earth, and the “Dragon’s Breath Burger,” ($9) featuring melty white cheddar, hot horseradish, house mustard, and chopped onion; juicy and tender, this burger definitely lived up to its name…and, the hand-cut French fries ($6) that accompanied it may have brought a little tear of joy to my eye. Also sampled were the “Wicked Garlic-ky Chicken,” ($12)
served with feta tzatziki and warm pita, “Crab Fried Rice,” ($12) featuring jasmine rice, gulf crab, and basil, and the “Market White Fish,” ($12) which on this particular evening consisted of a lovely curried mahi mahi creation served atop steamed banana leaves with assorted spring vegetables. Additionally, we were treated to delicious “Texas Beer Battered Zucchini Sticks,” ($6) served with a spicy romesco dip, and our “Something Green” ($6) for the evening, crisp, garlicky broccoli rabe, which was perfectly prepared.
Finally, dessert. I felt like a real American Hero at this point in the evening, sacrificing my personal comfort and future good health in the name of food and beverage blogging. The “Blueberry Crisp,” and the “Chocolate Mousse” (dessert prices and availability may vary) we sampled were a perfect, sweet ending to this immensely enjoyable event.
In conclusion, I’m sold; NYLO Plano is a great spot for locals and visitors alike to sit back and enjoy a tasty cocktail and a delicious meal. Do yourself a favor and check out their new menu, soon.
Here’s the scoop on NYLO’s happy hour: Drink specials and promotions rotate on a daily basis, and the schedule changes month to month. Friday evenings feature live musical entertainment. Be sure to check out their website for happy hour times/prices and entertainment schedule. Here is the scoop for October: