Category Archives: Drink Specialty

Sweat Out the Chill with a Marker’s Mark Hot Toddiablo

Y’all … this weather is weird.  30º one day, 60º the next … it’s enough to give anyone a sniffle.  The best cure?  A hot toddy.

The Hot Toddy (or tottie or “hot whiskey”) is traditionally made using a dark spirit (usually whiskey, rum, or brandy), hot water, sugar, and some spice.  Typically, we see lemon added to make it … you know … more “medicinal”.  And while they’re said to be a good way to mitigate cold symptoms, I’ve found that I enjoy them whether I’m sickly or not.

The word “toddy” itself comes from the Hindi work tārī, which was a drink they made using the toddy palm.  The British adopted and adapted the drink (as they do), and then it made its way to America’s deep south and they did the same using rum and local spice and sugars, but these drinks were served cool.  The more well-known HOT version is thought to have come from Scotland and was used as a cold cure.  

Wherever it came from, I’m a fan.  That said, I came up with a version that will add some (literal) spice to your holiday …

Hot Toddiablo
1½ oz Maker’s Mark
1/4 oz Ancho Chili Demerera Syrup*
1 bag Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice tea
3 oz hot water
2 dashes Orange bitters

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass, then stir until combined.
Glass: hot drink glass

Garnish: orange slice and cinnamon stick (and slice of ancho chile if desired)

Ancho Chili Demerera Syrup
2 cups demerera sugar (Sugar in the Raw)
1 cup water
2 ancho chilis, stemmed and seeded

Bring ingredients to a boil in a saucepan, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and let sit for 20 minutes.  Strain through a find sieve, and let cool completely.  Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

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Maker’s Mark: ~$30/750mL
Tea: Harney and Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice tea, $2-$24
Cup: Crate and Barrel, $1.95

***Maker’s Mark generously provided me with product to create this recipe.***

Absolut Elyx Gibson Tour

Hi, my name is Tiffany, and I’m a cocktail onion addict.

Whew! There, I said it. It was love at first sight – I remember that night so clearly: My friends and I were sitting in a dimly-lit corner of a New Orleans restaurant during Tales of the Cocktail and were primed to order our first round of drinks. Our local Absolut Elyx brand ambassador, Kyle Paris, was with us and suggested that I try the Gibson martini, and I’M SO GLAD I LISTENED TO HIM. (He knows things sometimes.) I love me a well-made dry martini, but when you garnish it with a crunchy, briny, house made cocktail onion? Game over. Take me away.

What I couldn’t believe was how long it took me to eat my first ever cocktail onion. In all honesty, I vaguely remember seeing the little pearls on various bar tops, but it never occurred to me that they were briny. I always thought they were raw, and I’m definitely not a fan of eating raw onions. Yuck. However, now that Kyle had set me straight, I had so many questions. Why have my bartender buddies been withholding this pickled treasure from me? Do all of my favorite bars back home have cocktail onions? If so, do they make the cocktail onions in-house? Am I the only one with whom Kyle shared this brilliance?

I needed answers.

My Dallas Gibson cocktail discovery mission had a rough start.  I had the unfortunate incident of receiving a Gibson that was garnished with cocktail onions from the bottom of a very large, very old-looking jar. (The bar name will be withheld to protect the not at all innocent.) To say the least, it was an unpleasant experience – the onions lacked the freshness and crunch that I enjoyed so much with my first Gibson. I learned a paramount lesson that night: Store-bought jarred cocktail onions be gone. Say it with me: House made garnishes only!

That’s when I partnered up with Kyle to organize the first ever (as far as I know anyway) Absolut Elyx Gibson Tour. We reached out to some of our favorite bartenders around the city to see if any would be interested in coming up with their own cocktail onion recipes. As it turns out, many of them were.

Five bars.
One night.
Six friends on average at each boozy stop.
Who knows how many Gibsons to consume.

The Absolut Elyx Tour was officially on.

STOP #1: VICINI

Our first stop was in the ‘burbs at Vicini Frisco. Barman Brian McCullough served up some delightful Elyx cocktails with his variation of the cocktail onion – pickled spring onion bow ties. I really enjoyed Brian’s version; it had welcome, grassy notes, the familiar brininess, and a touch of whimsy. What’ s not to love?

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STOP #2: BOULEVARDIER

From Frisco, the Tour braved Friday rush hour traffic all the way down to Bishop Arts District to pay Boulevardier a visit. This popular restaurant/bar is one of the few spots that already make their own cocktail onions. Ashley Williams made an excellent classic onion garnish; so excellent, in fact, that I enjoyed six of them. (Two onions per cocktail, carry the three … you do the math.)

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STOP #3: THE MITCHELL

After two delightful stops, the Tour was starting to hit its stride. From Boulevardier, we Uber’d our way downtown to The Mitchell where they offered not one but two cocktail onions to sample that night, one in a “garden brine” and one made with hatch chilis. I’m a bit of a spice wimp so I steered clear of anything marinating in a hatch chili situation, so I opted for the garden variety. Without hesitation, I popped the onion in my mouth, anticipating a deliciously briny vegetable medley. What I got instead was a mouthful of sharp, raw onion. Oh boy, that was surprising. No kissing for me that night for sure. I downed the rest of my Gibson to alleviate the biting flavor.

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STOP #4: MIDNIGHT RAMBLER

Without hesitation, the Elyx Gibson Tour soldiered on to a tried and true spot down the street, Midnight Rambler. They garnish their Gibson, The Silvertone, with a mighty fine and smoky chipotle onion, to which I was no stranger. The Elyx was flowing and skewers of golden brown onions perched on about half of the cocktails on the bar top for a solid hour. This was the 4th stop on the tour and the group was feeling gooooooood — and Susie had finally joined us. (A little tardy to the party.)

By the time we made it to the fifth and last stop of the night, most of our friends had already bid us farewell. So then there were the final four.

STOP #5: HIGH & TIGHT

We approached the bar at High & Tight, excited to see what our favorite bar-behind-a-barbershop’s man behind the stick, Austin Gurley, had in store for us, and I am so happy that we made it to the last stop. The cocktail onion was so surprisingly flavorful, with citrusy notes of grapefruit and a spicy, peppery kick. It was by far our favorite of the night!

The Elyx Gibson Tour proved a success, and what kind of cocktail onion addict would I be if I didn’t try to cover more ground? A few days after the tour, I visited Hugo Osorio at The Theodore to sample the onion batch he prepared. The onions were wonderfully balanced with crunchiness, brininess, and jalapeño spiciness … so yeah, pretty much cocktail onion heaven.

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This last Gibson falls outside of the Dallas area … like, really far outside. But, due to its Absolut awesomeness, it had to be included. A few weekends ago, I went to Chicago and had the pleasure of ordering the Elyx Gibson off of Vol. 39‘s brand spanking new cocktail menu at The Kimpton Gray Hotel. As far as I was concerned, it was kismet. The cocktail onion had bursts of Chinese five-spice and red wine vinegar. It sparkled atop my glass like a garnet jewel. If you ever find yourself in downtown Chicago, don’t think twice before visiting this bar. Thank me later.

I write this in hopes of drawing out existing Gibson lovers and converting the Gibson-ly ignorant into cocktail onion enthusiasts. And then, maybe one day, this particular tipple will experience a comeback of Old Fashioned’s proportions. A girl like me can dream, right? In the meantime, if you’re curious about trying out the Gibson for yourself, give me a call. I’m always down.

SPECIAL THANKS TO ABSOLUT ELYX FOR HELPING US MAKE THIS NIGHT HAPPEN!


Vicini: 7777 Warren Parkway #104 (Frisco)
Boulevardier: 408 N Bishop Avenue #108 (Bishop Arts District)
The Mitchell: 1404 Main Street (Downtown)
Midnight Rambler: 1530 Main Street, inside The Joule Hotel (Downtown)
High & Tight: 2701 Main Street #180 (Deep Ellum)
The Theodore: 8687 North Central Expressway #1804, inside NorthPark Center (North Dallas)
Vol. 39: 39 S. La Salle Street, inside the Kimpton The Gray Hotel (Chicago, Illinois)

Craft Cocktails Go Mainstream at Houlihan’s

Houlihan’s is bringing craft cocktails to the chain restaurant scene with their new 10-drink menu. (At least as much as a chain of its caliber can.)  Houlihan’s introduced new drinks for our tasting pleasure at the Prestonwood location in Addison over a week in May. Using unusual techniques and unique spirits, Houlihan’s new drink menu looks more like something out of a hipster speakeasy than a suburban chain restaurant.

Take, for example, their Oak Aged Manhattan.  This cocktail is aged on-site, using a mix of orange peels and oak staves for a barrel-less aging process. Houlihan’s mixologists claim this technique gives a smooth, subtly nuanced spirit in less time. When I tasted it, there were undertones of maple and vanilla. It is a simple but well-balanced cocktail–just as it should be. Mine came served with a salty, fatty, perfectly candied bacon.

Oak Aged Manhattan
Oak Aged Manhattan

My second drink, the Houdini, took a decidedly sweeter, fruity direction despite the high-proof spirit used. Henry McKenna Single-Barrel Kentucky Bourbon mingles with maple syrup and homemade ginger-peach syrup. This is refreshing cocktail is a perfect patio drink.

The Houdini
The Houdini

The rest of the new drink menu really has something to suit all tastes. One of the more classic additions is a slightly remixed Dirty Martini, shaken up with the addition of huge olives stuffed with pungent gorgonzola cheese and some delicious candied bacon. They even offer a tiki drink–the Blue Taboo. It looks like a sugar rush in a glass, but it’s more than just that; the drink is undeniably sweet, but it is well-balanced by the addition of Owl’s Brew Coco-Lada, which is a handcrafted black tea brewed in coconut water with chai spices and pineapple juice. Now I didn’t sample it, but the Bleeding Rose is definitely one of the more original creations offered on the new drink list.  St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, Absolut Hibiskus and fresh sour mix create the base of this cocktail which is poured over an Aperol-tea ice cube. The melting Aperol, a blazing orange-colored bitter Italian aperitif, will change the flavor profile of the Bleeding Rose over the course of the drink. And on another positive note even the ice is made of alcohol –so it’s the drink that keeps on giving!

Let’s not forget the food, because drinking on an empty stomach rarely ends well.  I tried out the avocado toast with burrata. This summer special has a ton of fresh avocado smeared on top of toasted rustic bread and is seasoned with jalapeño, cilantro and garlic, to give it a bit of kick.  A sweet, creamy burrata cooled the heat and added to the overall decadence of the dish. The portion size was generous enough to make for a light summer dinner. And not letting an opportunity get away to try something else from the limited time menu, I went with the Mahi-Mahi salad, complete with jumbo lump crab and a sweet and tangy citrus and pineapple salad.

The 10 new cocktails are only available at the Prestonwood location, but eventually they will roll out to Houlihan’s restaurants around the country.

… I guess, for now, we are the lucky ones.  Cheers!

Houlihan’s Restaurant and Bar
www.houlihans.com
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5225 Beltline Road #220, Addison

*Thank you to Houlihan’s for picking up the tab and inviting me to check out the new menu items!*

 

French 75 Popsicles

I recently turned 30, and I wanted a little extra something to booze my guests up at the big celebration.  My party was outside … in June … in Texas, so I thought that boozy popsicles would be ideal.   And what better drink to freeze than a French 75.

Traditional French 75 cocktail was first documented in 1927, but an iteration of it was mentioned as early as 1867 (and by Charles Dickins!) and, once named, was named after a French field gun.  The first recipes called for bubbly, sugar, citrus, and gin, but newer recipes have introduced cognac as an alternative.

I had to make sure the popsicles were easy to eat (since some of the guests would be wearing white), so I did a bit of research and found the perfect solution: Zipzicles!  They’re the tubes you grew up with, but with a convenient zip closure … so no scissors are required and no melty stickiness on my guests’ hands.

sw pops

The recipe was easy enough and filling the tubes only required a funnel. (And an extra set of hands made it MUCH easier.)  It took about 12 hours for them so solidify completely, and since there was gin in them, it was a soft freeze.

FRENCH 75 POPSICLES
12oz sparkling wine (I used Mia Moscato)
4oz cognac or gin (I used Bulldog London Dry Gin)
4oz simple syrup (I used ginger simple syrup in half of them)
3oz fresh squeezed lemon juice

Makes about 12 popsicles

Needless to say, these were a hit!  I ended up making about 65 of them, and the only trouble was keeping them cold.  (My suggestion would be to use an ice bucket (or galvanized bucket) filled with a layer of dry ice (on the bottom) and top it with regular ice.)

If you need suggestions for more boozy popsicles, check out a popsicle cocktail recipe book that I reviewed a few years back, Poptails!


Header picture courtesy of Madison Mentesana.

Zipzicles, Bulldog Gin, and Mia Wines gifted these items gratis.

California Pizza Kitchen: the Next Chapter

Once upon a time, when I was  starving college student, I worked at the mall. Upon clocking out for my 30 minute lunch break, my M.O. was to pick my sad granola bar from my purse or maybe grab a kids meal from Chik-fil-a (in my defense, it did come with a fun toy), because we all know $128 text books don’t pay for themselves. But once a month or so, when I was feeling particularly saucy, I would splurge and spring for a BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad from California Pizza Kitchen. I’m pretty sure in some instances that salad was the highlight of my month.

Admittedly, I haven’t visited California Pizza Kitchen much since my mall days ended. No real reason; I guess I just sort of forgot about it. Fast forward double-digit years: I recently revisited California Pizza Kitchen at their Willow Bend location to check out their new “Next Chapter” menu. I was excited to revisit an old favorite (but also anxious to see if they still served my coveted salad), and to see what their new menu was all about. I won’t make you wait in suspense: CPK did indeed still have my beloved salad along with several other familiar salad selections. The pasta and pizza selection also appeared relatively unchanged, with classic offerings like the Original BBQ Chicken Pizza and Thai Chicken pizza still gracing the menu.

So, that said, what’s in CPK’s “Next Chapter?” California Pizza Kitchen has recently updated its menu to focus on high quality, fresh and seasonal ingredients, and *most importantly* (OK, maybe that’s a matter of opinion, but barely) hand-crafted cocktails, and locally brewed beers.

Speaking of those craft cocktails; I’m going to go ahead and admit I was pleasantly surprised (if somewhat skeptical) when I looked at the new menu, which billed CPK’s cocktails as “unique and spirited”. The new cocktail collection features premium spirits paired with fresh fruit purées and herbs, with an extra surprise of unexpected ingredients. One such cocktail I sampled was the California Roots, (fresh avocado, shaken smooth with Svedka vodka, mint and lime, garnished with a fennel salt rim, $10.29). While I wouldn’t characterize the avocado flavor as identifiable in this imaginative cocktail, it definitely gave my drink a pleasantly rich and smooth consistency. I loved the zippy lime and mint, and the fennel salt rim was an awesome touch.

We also tried the  Blueberry Ginger Smash (fresh blueberries, lime and cranberry with Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and Domaine de Canton Ginger, $10.89). This one was packed with berry flavor, and about as summery as a whiskey drink can get. Most notably, the cocktails we sampled packed a rather surprising punch. I have tried my fair share of “fancy dranks” that look pretty and taste good but seem to be characterized by a relative lack of booze, but rest assured, this was not a problem we encountered. (I’ll note that it’s a dangerous thing to get mall-drunk … drunk shopping is real, y’all.)

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Picture courtesy of California Pizza Kitchen

 

CPK has also added a stellar sangria flight to their lineup. It includes Orchard Sangria (white wine, St. Germain Elderflower, Monin Stone Fruit, orange and cranberry juices), Red-Berry Sangria (red wine, Rémy VSOP, Monin Blackberry, raspberry purée, cranberry juice, lemonade), and the seasonal Harvest Sangria (Bacardi Superior Rum, St. Germain Elderflower, Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay with muddled grapes, basil & fresh agave sour), all three for $10. In additional to being a pretty amazing value, all three varieties were very nicely balanced. Additionally, CPK has a variety of wines available in 6oz or 9oz pours as well as by the bottle. And they offer a “Wine Adventure Guarantee”, encouraging patrons to be adventurous and try a new wine … and if it doesn’t thrill you, they will replace it with your regular favorite.

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Their craft beer selection is also slowly expanding with offerings from the likes of Chimay, Rogue, and Goose Island gracing the menu. Additionally, CPK has added a selection of local favorites, currently including Lakewood Hop Trapp, Lakewood Temptress (yum), and Nine Band Pale Ale.

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After sampling so many drinks, it was a good thing CPK invited us to try several of their new menu items, too. They have a new collection of small plates and flatbreads, ranging from Crispy Mac ’n’ Cheese to White Corn Guacamole. We sampled the new Bianco Flatbread (whipped truffle cream, Gorgonzola, Mozzarella and fresh sage, $6.99), and the truffle cream was approximately as outstanding as it sounds, and the fresh sage was dee-lish.

CPK has added a variety of new entree options to their menu, emphasizing “globally inspired” seasonal ingredients. We sampled the Hearth-Roasted Halibut (wild caught from Alaska and roasted on a cedar plank with butternut squash farro, grilled asparagus and baby kale, $19.49) that was incredibly flaky and tender, and the butternut squash farrow was one of those dishes that just warms the soul. Even my husband, who tends to be somewhat of a “fish snob”, gave this dish two thumbs up. We also tried the Roasted Garlic Chicken with Seasonal Vegetables (a crispy-skin chicken breast in lemon-garlic sauce, with a medley of the seasonal vegetables) that was amazingly decadent and moist, bursting with buttery lemon garlic flavor. CPK is also featuring a new Fire-Grilled Ribeye (house-made pinot noir sea salt, topped with creamy bleu cheese butter and served with roasted fingerling potatoes and lemon-garlic wild arugula salad, $25.99).

Overall, I was quite impressed with California Pizza Kitchen’s “New Chapter”, and I think this may be a “New Chapter” for CPK and I, as well (mall job not included).

California Pizza Kitchen – Willow Bend
CPK.com
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6121 W. Park Blvd., Sp.D-126, Plano (South Side of Mall, Next to Crate and Barrel)
469-366-0060

 To view menus or find other locations, visit cpk.com 
Our team was invited in for a meal on the house.

Brunch at The Eberhard

If you are a twenty (or thirty)-something living in Dallas right now, you’ve heard of The Eberhard. (If you haven’t … it’s one of the more recently opened unst unst scene places on Knox/Henderson.) I guess they finally figured out that being the cool new kid on the block is fleeting, so it seems they’re stepping up their food game–starting with brunch.  (Because, Dallas.)

65-Foot Bar

The space itself is unique and versatile with two giant areas of living room-style seating and plenty of room, both inside and outside on their wraparound porch. The DJ booth, located up a spiral staircase, keeps the party going all night, and they offer a Mezzanine overlooking the rest of the space for private events … or “VIPs”. Oh … and the sixty-five-foot bar eliminates the wait time (relatively).

The Eberhard Mimosa

For their brunch, they have, of course, your go-to standard Mimosa. (#ProTip: If you go in before the end of May, they’re only $2!) They also have three signature sangrias to choose from along with signature brunch cocktails. Their Coco Colada (coconut vodka, Coco Real, and pineapple juice) is sweet and fresh. My personal favorite was the Eber’s King Julep (bourbon, honey ginger syrup, peach bitters and mint ), because … ’tis the season.

 

 

The cocktails are amazing, but they aren’t to be undercut by the brunch food menu. Their chef provides some brunch staples taken to the next level. The Eggs Benedicto and Buttermilk Biscuits & Gravy don’t just look amazing. The French Quarter Chicken & Waffles paired perfectly with my Eber’s King Julep.  They have an off-menu item that is a Breakfast BLT. Who doesn’t love banana nut bread? The Eberhard has taken a great American breakfast food and reinvented it. The Banana Nut French Toast served with Bourbon Brown Sugar Syrup and a fruit parfait.

 

While we all can begrudgingly agree that The Eberhard will continue to be a go-to place on weekend nights … it has now become what will be the new “it” place for brunch on Saturday and Sundays. Get in there before the end of May and take advantage of their $2 mimosas! You won’t be disappointed.


The Eberhard
www.theeberhard.com
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2107 N. Henderson Ave.

Grill & Vine

First: If you haven’t set foot in the newly open Westin Downtown Dallas yet, you should; it’s gorgeous. Secondly: Whenever you do set foot in the Westin Downtown Dallas, you should definitely pay a visit to Grill & Vine; it’s delicious.

The Westin Downtown Dallas Grill & Vine recently invited the SDD team in to check out the newly open restaurant and bar. I was immediately taken with the sleek, upscale-contemporary decor (If it feels vaguely familiar, here’s a spoiler alert: the Westin’s design team is also credited with the design of The Joule). Most of all, the view of the skyline is killer as seen through sweeping, floor to ceiling picture windows surrounding the dining room. The view alone makes this spot a great choice for a pre-dinner cocktail.

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Speaking of cocktails … Grill & Vine offers a creative collection of a dozen of ’em. I sampled the Elderflower Fitzgerald (Dripping Springs gin, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, lemon, and angostura bitters-$11)–I found it to be delightfully light and refreshing, and begging for spring to hurry up and get here. Other intriguing cocktail offerings include the Smoke and Honey (Silver Star Texas Honey, Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur, cucumber, lemon, habanero shrub-$12), the Chamomile Mule (Chamomile-infused Absolut, lime, honey, ginger beer, $10), and the Provencal Lemonade (Dripping Springs vodka, Carpano Bianco, basil, lemon, and lavender bitters-$11). 

Grill & Vine’s wine list features in the upwards of 50 well-rounded offerings, nearly all of which are available by the glass. A short but sweet list of local craft beer rotators are available, in addition to the expected line-up of domestics and imports. And, may the gluten-intolerant of you rejoice as they offer several gluten-free beers .

After enjoying a pre-dinner cocktail (or two three … ) at the bar, we moved to a table. With Executive Chef Bill Lundstrom at the helm, Grill & Vine’s culinary program is heavily focused on regional flavors utilizing local ingredients, and a seasonally rotating menu. I was lucky enough to stay for dinner, and everything I sampled was fantastic. The Smoked Beef Brisket Tacos (pickled onions, smashed avocado, brazos valley queso-$15) were a favorite, and the House Mac & Cheese, made with Brazos cheddar and smoked gouda, is not to be missed. Oh, and save room for dessert–the Banana Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding with creme anglaise and orange caramel was basically to die for.


Grill and Vine
(972) 555-6689
1201 Main St., Dallas, TX 75202
Reservations | Menu

Happy Hour: Offered daily until 7pm
$2 off wine by the glass, $5 local drafts, and a selection of craft cocktails available for $6

Westin Dallas Downtown
westindallasdowntown.com
(972) 584-6650
1201 Main St., Dallas, TX 75202

National Margarita Day 2016

Monday, February 22 is National Margarita Day … definitely one of the more important holidays of the year.  If you’re around Dallas, stop by one of the places offering awesome deals on the limey tequila goodness.

If going out on a Monday isn’t your thing (which I just will never understand), try your hand at homemade margaritas sans the sugary (and, ahem, pedestrian) mixes with my Blood Orange Mid-Winter Margarita.  Since blood oranges are in season from December to May (give or take), it’s the perfect way to punch up the traditional recipe.  (Since it’s quite colorful, it makes for a great picture, too!)

BLOOD ORANGE MID-WINTER MARGARITA
1.5oz tequila
0.75oz of Monin Blood Orange Syrup
0.75oz fresh blood orange juice
0.75oz fresh lime juice + a bit more
chile salt

Combine liquid ingredients in a shaker.  Add ice and shake for 15 seconds.  Dip the rim of the glass in lime juice and then the chile salt.

Want a bit of spice?  Throw in 1/2 oz of Torani’s Sweet Heat ghost pepper syrup!

light back