The only gin made on the island of Islay, this artisanal expression by the Bruichladdich Distillery presents 31 botanicals—nine classicly found in gin, and 22 of which are hand-foraged locally (and responsibly) on Islay. Since 2011, this “progressive exploration of the botanical heritage of … Islay” prides itself on a forager’s spirit.
The distillation process is equally as unique as the botanicals. They slow simmer in a pot-still at low pressure for 17 hours to release the most flavor from the ingredients. The “slow burn” results in a unique and complex flavor.
One of my contributors, Aaron, and I were lucky enough to be invited to a celebration of this expression. First, we were walked through a quick bartending demonstration where they showed us how to make the Red Lady (this an all recipes are below) by the brand ambassador.
Then we were invited to join the Botanist Gin team for a four course meal—all made with as-local-as-possible ingredients that complimented the flavors in the accompanying Botanist cocktails. Each cocktail was extremely unique and brought out the complexity of the botanicals.
Fruit of Thyme 1.5 oz The Botanist Gin 4 oz Tonic Water 1 slim Ruby Red Grapefruit wedge
Squeeze grapefruit wedge in glass and leave in glass. Add The Botanist Gin, then ice and top with tonic water. Garnish with a sprig of thyme.
Red Lady 2 oz The Botanist Gin 1 oz Cointreau 1 oz Fresh squeezed lemon juice 6 strips julienned red bell peppers 3 drops orange bitters
In a shaker tin, muddle red bell pepper. Add all remaining ingredients, then shake without ice vigorously. Add ice and shake briskly. Double-strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a julienned red bell pepper.
Smoke Show 2 oz The Botanist Gin 1 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice 1 oz ginger syrup 0.25 oz Mezcal 4 drops orange bitters
Add all ingredients to shaker. Fill shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain to a coupe glass and garnish with pickled ginger.
Gin for All Seasons 1.5 oz The Botanist Gin 0.25 oz Suze 0.25 oz fresh squeezed red grapefruit juice 0.75 oz simple syrup 3 oz soda water 1 pinch sea salt
Add The Botanist Gin, Suze, Fresh Squeezed Red Grapefruit Juice and Simply Syrup to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into an iced highball. Top with soda water.
Regroni 1.5 oz The Botanist Gin 1 oz Aperol 1 oz Cocchi Dry Vermouth
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass. Add ice and stir for 20 seconds until chilled. Strain and pour over large ice cube in rocks glass. Garnish with a sweet pepper circle.
Generally speaking, you know you’re in for a good time whenever tequila is involved. If said tequila is Casamigos, just do yourself a favor and schedule an Uber and enjoy the ride … and the cocktails.
That the tequila brand itself was the brainchild of Randy Gerber and George Clooney, who simply sought to create a tequila that “they could drink all day and not be hungover in the morning” should be incentive enough to try it out. But at a time when every reality TV star has their own line of something, I was skeptical. Turns out I should have saved my skepticism for the D-list celebs peddling lip gloss, because these guys know their tequila. (Randy & George, if by some bizarre twist of fate you read this, I humbly and sincerely apologize). If all that isn’t enough, the recent sale to Diageo for $1B should lend the company some extra cred.
Casamigos mixes well, is smooth enough to sip on the rocks, and every recipe we made during the event at Jaliso NorteI attended recently was surprisingly tasty. (I say “surprisingly” because until then, I lived in a world where tequila’s only time to shine was with salt, lime or grapefruit juice. How sad my life was.) Consider me educated.
We were treated to a class where we learned to make tequila cocktails with thyme, whipped cream, apples and cloves … all were all delicious and unexpected.
CASA BLOOD ORANGE 2 oz. Casamigos Blanco
1 oz. blood orange juice
1 oz. fresh lime juice
.5 oz. simple syrup
2 serrano slices
½ thick rim of sugar, salt, tajin mixture (equal parts)
Combine all ingredients into tin shaker. Muddle fruit. Add ice. Shake vigorously for 8-10 seconds. Fine strain into rocks glass. Add fresh ice. Garnish with blood orange wheel.
CASA PUMPKIN SPICE 2.5 oz. Casamigos Reposado Tequila
1 oz. Agave Nectar or simple syrup
1 oz. creme
.25 oz. almond liqueur
2 heaping bar spoons organic canned pumpkin (or fresh)
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 pinch nutmeg
1 pinch cinnamon
Combine all ingredients into tin shaker. Add ice. Shake vigorously for 10-12 seconds. Strain into Irish glass mug. Add dollop of whipped cream and lightly sprinkle nutmeg over top.
CASA CIDER 2 oz. Casamigos Reposado
1 oz. apple cider
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
.5 oz. ginger syrup
.5 oz. agave nectar
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 pinch cinnamon
Combine all ingredients into tin shaker. Add ice. Shake vigorously for 8-10 seconds. Strain into rocks glass. Add fresh ice. Garnish with thin apple slice, thyme sprig, star anise and cinnamon sprinkle.
If served hot: add 1 oz. water and heat up contents. No ice needed.
CASA AMAGO 1.5 oz mole-infused Casamigos Reposado
.75 oz cocoa nib-infused Campari
.75 oz Carpano Formula Antica Vermouth
orange peel garnish
Combine above ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice. Stir for 50-60 revolutions or until well chilled and properly diluted. Garnish.
The venue matched the spirit of Casamigos perfectly—Jalisco Norte is stylish but down to earth, like that friend who dresses like an off-duty model but doesn’t just eat fries for likes. If you assumed that the last thing Dallas needed was another Mexican restaurant, set your assumptions aside and pay them a visit, you won’t be disappointed. Just make sure to pair your esquites and tuna tartare tostada with a Casamigos cocktail … even if it is a classic margarita.
Guys, I finally did it – I made it to San Antonio Cocktail Conference, more familiarly known as SACC. Held every January in the heart of San Antonio, bartenders, brand ambassadors, bar owners, and service industry enthusiasts alike gather in the city to attend classes led by influential industry leaders, and you know, PARTY.
However, since the event is five days with pairing dinners up to a week ahead of it, it may prove rather daunting to an unprepared SACC rookie. So, I’m here to help! Armed with my first full SACC experience, I’ve distilled it down to what I hope is a helpful guide to navigate and fully enjoy the spirited waters of everything ext year’s San Antonio Cocktail Conference has to offer.
STAY CLOSE TO THE ACTION One of the best things about SACC is that almost all of the events take place in the same five or six blocks next to the famed Riverwalk. So, it’s in your best interest to book a room close to the action. I had the pleasure of staying at the St. Anthony Hotel with Ms. Susie Drinks herself, and we found that we never had to walk very far for classes, bar takeovers, or event-hosted parties, mostly because many of them took place inside our hotel. Yes, Uber and Lyft are easy options for quick rides to events, but if you’re there for the full five days, those rides add up. And whatever you saved by booking that AirBnB 15 minutes outside of the city quickly disappears when you add up the ride receipts. (And who wants to have to take an Uber at 2:30am?) There are plenty of hotel options along the Riverwalk such as the Hotel Valencia, Sheraton Gunter, and Hotel Havana that make excellent locations for home base.
Repeat after me: “I don’t have to finish every drink. I don’t have to finish every drink. I don’t have to finish every drink.” It’s your new mantra. Why? Because YOU DON’T HAVE TO FINISH EVERY DRINK. Friends. this is a COCKTAIL conference. As you can surmise, there’s no shortage of alcohol flowing during any of the five days you may be there, so take care of yourself. One glass of water for one alcoholic beverage. Remember to eat. Sure, chances are you’ll slam some snaiquiris with your people, but you don’t have to slam ALL of your drinks, right? Right. Also, get plenty of sleep. It’s a very full five days, so conserve your energy in order to ensure that you make it to the end.
There’s no shortage of educational opportunities. Peruse the schedule and find one or four that speak to you. They offer classes for the cocktail enthusiast and the experienced industry members alike.
Speaking of pacing yourself, know that even in the seminars you’ll be served some tasty cocktails. Talk about incentivized education! I wish college was more like SACC classes; I would’ve learned so much more.
Yes, there’s plenty to do in San Antonio Cocktail Conference even if you don’t attend a single class, but you’d be doing yourself a grave disservice if you don’t take advantage of what the classes have to offer. I had the opportunity to meet Ezra Star from Boston’s Drink in her class, “Building Culture of Hospitality”. It was amazing to hear her philosophy on the culture that drives her bar: “We serve people, not drinks.” And in more depth, how that philosophy drives how she hires people for her team, how they create rituals that drive their culture and inspires her team to take initiative to further their own education. The class ran for an hour, and there was plenty of time dedicated to a Q&A, a rare opportunity for class attendees to pick Ezra’s brain and learn from her expertise.
Classes cost ~$45 each and run all day on the Friday and Saturday of the conference.
GET OFF THE BEATEN PATH Not everything you do during the conference will have anything to do with the conference itself. While there are plenty of hosted dinners and grand parties to attend at night, like Waldorf on the Prairie, there’s still plenty of time to explore the city’s other offerings. Do me a service and check out a couple of spots that I discovered on my trip and totally fell in love with. Like …
I keep telling myself that I’ll go back to San Antonio just to stay at the charming and historical Hotel Havana. But, with so few rooms, availability is rare. I understand since there’s a wonderful restaurant and bar there that keeps people coming by to discover the hotel. During my stay, I met up with some friends at Ocho at the Hotel Havana for lunch, and upon first glance, I was hooked. The space is encased in a glass observatory and offers pan-Latin food and Cuban-inspired cocktails. Personally, I recommend the Cuban sandwich and the coffee. Take some time to recharge for a day of SACC here. It’s a welcome reprieve from the hustle and bustle, and the decor is both warm and whimsical.
Another San Antonio gem I had the pleasure of enjoying is the new bar Downstairs at the Esquire Tavern. Located beneath the historic Esquire Tavern downtown bar, Downstairs is directly on the Riverwalk, and boasts a well-curated back bar as well as dark wood and intimate lighting details. The drinks are expertly executed by friendly and knowledgeable staff, and the walls are adorned with a bit of Esquire’s trademark taxidermy touch. This is my favorite San Antonio bar for sure.
So there we have it, my First-Timer’s Guide to SACC.
You’ll bump into friends everywhere you go.
You’ll get to know the city’s bartenders really quickly.
You’ll make friends with people from all over the country.
You’ll eat amazing food and drink delicious drinks.
You’ll avoid all hangovers while you’re there. (God willing.)
And you’ll learn so much from people who’ve been in the industry for years.
You’ll have an amazing time! See you next year at SACC 2018!
If there’s one thing Austinites love, it’s originality. (Ok, originality and music … and tacos … and Willie Nelson.) When famed Belgian brewer Pierre Celis opened the doors toCelis Brewery in 1992, it was Austin’s very first craft brewery, an establishment at the forefront of what’s now a thriving industry ’round these parts.
The brewery gained national and international notoriety with its Celis White, a Belgian witbier that Pierre Celis championed in his hometown of Hoegaarden, Belgium. The beer’s popularity led to the rapid growth of the brewery, which was subsequently sold to the Miller Brewing Company. In 2001, the brewery closed its doors. (Sad face.)
On Tuesday, July 11th—exactly 25 years to the day of the original brewery’s grand opening—droves of eager beer lovers gathered to welcome back one of Austin’s originals with a celebration featuring live music, brewery tours, and a special Celis-infused menu by Frank. The sweltering summer day was a perfect backdrop for the formal introduction of Celis’ first three Texas brews:
Celis White: first brewed by Pierre Celis in 1965, the signature witbier is made with the original Celis recipe including Cascade, Saaz and Willamette hops, coriander and orange peel, as well as the proprietary yeast strain from Belgium. Its slightly tart fruit flavors are balanced with light maltiness and wheat, and the citrus and spice finish delivers a refreshing taste that pairs perfectly with a summer afternoon in Texas.
Celis Pale Bock: this Belgian Pale Bock is brewed with caramel malts and Saaz, Willamette and Cascade hops, giving it a deep copper color and a creamy Belgian-white head. The Pale Bock has dry berry with caramel-malt and citrus aromas, and delicious flavors of subdued berry, malt, a touch of citrus, hints of herbs and spices, and a touch of bitterness at the finish.
Celis Citrus Grandis IPA: Celis Brewery’s first new recipe is an East Coast style IPA made with the finest Azacca and Citra hops. This zesty Caribbean-inspired brew mixes juicy citrus and tropical fruit aromatics in its hazy golden depths. The IPA pours hazy pale orange with frothy, paper-white head. The effortlessly drinkable beer has bold flavors of grapefruit, orange rind and melons followed by light peach, passionfruit and pineapple notes. It finishes with lingering piney, hop bitterness that begs for a second sip.
You can look forward to more releases in fall 2017, including Celis Grand Cru!
Christine Celis, Pierre’s daughter and partner in the original brewery, has rebuilt the legendary establishment, which features some of the original equipment from Belgium and a taproom with its majestic centerpiece, the original Celis Brewery’s massive hand-beaten copper kettle from the early 1900s which has been converted into a beautiful bar with some nice new modern brewery cleaning and sanitizing techniques. The 22,000-square-foot brewery in northwest Austin has the capacity to brew more than 50,000 barrels per year, with a technologically advanced 50 HL BrauKon brew system modified specifically to use old Belgian brewing techniques.
Now available on tap at more than 100 bars and restaurants in central Texas, availability will expand to Dallas Fort Worth in July, and San Antonio and Hill Country in August. Celis beers will be available in bottles in retail locations in August 2017.
Swing by the brewery now for some refreshing drinks at their stunning new bar. I know I’ll be returning very soon!
Celis Brewery, founded by Christine Celis in Austin, Texas, brews Belgian-style ales and other beers, including the original witbier that Pierre Celis brewed in Hoegaarden, Belgium. The brewery is an extension of the Celis family legacy and builds on the award-winning craft beer heritage for which the family is known.
Vino Palooza is a traveling wine and music festival that recently made a stop in both Fort Worth and Dallas this year. The Dallas event was held at Happiest Hour and featured wines from more than 20 different wineries as well as some beers and ciders.
J-Si Chavez from The Kidd Kraddick Morning Show hosted and several “Top 40” artists performed including Ryan Cabrera, Nash Overstreet of Hot Chelle Rae, and Ryan Key of Yellowcard, all in the name of helping local non-profit organizations. Snacks were provided, but the full Happiest Hour menu was available for those looking for substance.
The day couldn’t have been more pleasant at 75-ish degrees and sunny–everyone clearly enjoyed the wine, the music, and the atmosphere. This event is a must if you can grab a hold of tickets before they sell out!
There is no doubt that the company owning names like Jack Daniels, Woodford Reserve and Old Forester has serious insight when it comes to truly great whiskey and bourbon. When the opportunity comes to taste scotch from three newly acquired, iconic Scottish distilleries’ brands that date back to the 1800s, you take it. Period. The night with Brown-Forman started off with specialty scotch cocktails designed by the Global Brand Ambassador of their Scotch Collection (more on him in a minute) and a little talk so we could get to know the Brown-Forman team.
Honestly, before this night, I had never tried (or even heard of) a scotch cocktail. The though in my mind was that just isn’t done because it would be a waste of a great spirit. When I asked the ambassador (who is from Scotland, naturally) if it hurt him that we were drinking scotch cocktails, he laughed and said, “Of course not! I designed them myself, and when you complement the flavors of the whiskey, there’s nothing wrong with mixing.” We began with a traditional scotch cocktail, the Penicillin (BenRiach 10-Year, lemon, ginger, honey syrup), which is a stout cocktail with the perfect balance of bright flavors with the smokiness of the scotch. We then had a couple of less classic options like the Highland Game Changer (GlenDronach 12-Year, vermouth, cherry brandy, dash of absinthe) and the Bobby Burns (GlenDronach 12-Year, orange liqueur, and vermouth).
Once everyone was sufficiently lubricated, we moved into the tasting portion of the evening. The tasting was led by Stewart Buchanan, a Scottish native and Global Brand Ambassador of the Brown-Forman Scotch Collection. Stuart has been involved in the Scotch industry since 1993.
He has worked in virtually every position within the industry from production to warehousing, office work to hosting tastings and management. In 2004, he helped to restart the BenRiach Distillery, one of the sampled brands in the tasting, after it had been closed since 2002.
Needless to say, he is a world-class sommelier of Scotch (whatever the word is for that). With his production background, Stuart gives a unique insight into the different process techniques and what makes a whiskey individuality by using different styles of casks in maturation. All that said, he has an incredibly outgoing personality and is a dangerous drinking companion.
Now to the whiskey… GlenDronach 12-Year-Old Original Rich sherried, 12-year-old single malt matured in a combination of Spanish Oloroso sherry casks.
Proof: 43% ABV Nose: Sweet aroma with creamy vanilla and hints of ginger and autumn fruits Taste: Creamy and silky smooth taste with rich oak and sherry sweetness, full mouth feel, raisins, soft fruits and spice Finish: Long, full and slightly nutty finish Distillery: The Glendronach Distillery, founded in 1826 in the valley of Forgue deep in the East Highland hills and one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland. Characteristics of this distillery are heavy and robust using mastery of sherry cask maturation with a deep color and rich flavor profiles ranging from sweet and fruity to dry and nutty.
BenRiach 10-Year-Old Fresh and smooth single malt Classic Speyside. It is unpeated, fruity and matured in American Virgin Oak wood.
Proof: 43% ABV Nose: Crisp, green orchard fruits, stem ginger and tangerine mellows to creamy vanilla with a delicate note of mint and a twist of citrus with a barley back note. Taste: Warm toasted oak spices through green apple skins and dried apricots with hints of peach and soft banana. Touches of aniseed and lemon zest contrast the fruit and add to the crisp barley finish. Distillery: The BenRiach Distillery was founded in 1898 in Northeast Morayshire that uses 100% Scottish Barley sourced from farms across Speyside and Northeast Scotland. They are known for using a wide variety of casks for maturing and finishing. BenRiach is one of only two remaining Speyside distilleries to seasonally produce whiskey using malted barley from its own traditional floor maltings.
BenRiach 10-Year-Old Curiositas Peated single malt distilled from heavily peated malted barley giving this scotch a fresh, peated expression with smoky-sweet notes. Note: Peat is a traditional source of fuel that is taken from the land and consists of compressed, decaying plant material. Different processes in sourcing and the varying locations of Scottish distilleries give varying flavors of smokiness unique to where the Scotch is distilled. BenRiach uses Highland Peat that is taken from the top layer of soil and has charcoal and campfire notes, unlike the salt-water infused peat used in coastal distilleries that have a medicinal and iodine notes.
Proof: 46% ABV Nose: Aromatic peat smoke with hints of honey, fruit and mellow oak Taste: Pear front followed by a complex hint of fruit, heather, nuts, oak and wood spices.
Glenglassaugh Evolution (my favorite of the evening) Distinctive whiskey matured in ex-Tennessee Whiskey barrels which gives it a unique flavor compared to other Scotch whiskeys.
Proof: 50% ABV Nose: Combination of sweet barley, pineapple and vanilla with deep oak spices and caramelized pear. Taste: White peppery oak through crisp green apple with hints of salted caramel and ripe banana. Distillery: Glenglassaugh is an award-winning distiller founded in 1875 on Sandend Bay on the Moray coast of Scotland that is on that Highland and Speyside border. Their Scotch, both peated and unpeated is matured in beach side warehouses that gives it salty notes, but uses Highland malt that creates a unique flavor of three regions. They are known for innovation of their newer whiskeys, but have old stocks going back to 1963.
Brown-Forman created a truly amazing and educational evening. Due to the recent acquisition of these distilleries and their commitment to knowledge and quality, this scotch whiskey is currently available in limited quantities in the United States. Specifically, in the Dallas area, you should be able to find them in Total Wine and Specs. If you are looking to sample, we were informed that the Standard Pour and Whiskey Cake in Plano were the only two watering holes that were mentioned to have stock. Not to worry, though, the Brown-Forman team said they would be more widely distributed later in April and May. Save up your money and go grab a bottle … or three.
If your Super Bowl weekend was anything like mine, it was full of highs (endless guacamole, Gaga performing at halftime) and lows (Tom Brady winning … again, Beyoncé not performing with Gaga at halftime). So when I was invited to a Campari happy hour at Americano, I knew my week was on the up and up. The restaurant’s already successful happy hour just got happier with the re-introduction of “Aperitivo Hour”, an event hosted by Campari.
“Aperitivo” in Italian means a low-alcoholic drink consumed prior to a meal, intended to stimulate your appetite … but what I heard in that definition was for me to become as classy and smart as an Italian, I’ve gotta pre-game with my pals before dinner. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
This Italian idea of sharing a drink and some snacks with friends before dinner sounds like a win-win, and low ABV drinks from Campari make it an even better sell. Small bites like fried calamari and fried olives (Susie’s favorite) paired with an Aperol Spritz (Campari, grapefruit bitters, prosecco) or the restaurant’s namesake Americano (Rosso Vermouth, Campari, soda) get you prepped for what will certainly be an excellent dinner.
Stop by the downtown hot spot weekdays from 4-7 to cultivate your new favorite Italian tradition.
I’m pretty sure most Fort Worthians (I think that’s what we are called) will agree that Salsa Limon turns out some of the best tacos this side of Arlington. That said, I was really excited to hear that they opened a new location in downtown Fort Worth in the Tower building. This isn’t just a typical Salsa Limon … oh no … because this one serves liquor. Now you can get a margarita or a spiked agua fresca while enjoying the yummy tacos. Blessed be the taco gods.
Salsa Limon is trying to honor and preserve true Mexican taquerias–they use only the freshest ingredients. Their best selling taco is the El Capitan, which just happens to be my personal favorite. A buttery, toasted flour tortilla, Oaxaca-Jack cheese, pickled cabbage, onion, cilantro, and whatever filling you want. BRB I have to go wipe my drool real quick. I’ve always gone with my “safe” order of a Chicken El Capitan, but I got to experience some different meats that might have changed my order. I tried the Tripa for the first time last week, and to my surprise, I enjoyed this Mexican delicacy. If you want to just trust me that it’s really good, but not know what part of the animal it comes from … stop reading now. For those of you who are curious: cow intestine.
Now for the salsa.I may or may not be known to ordering large quantities of their amazing salsa and to keep it in my fridge … but let’s not spread that around. So the tomatillo (my favorite) and piquin are traditional taqueria salas, and the jalapeño and habanero are family recipes. Basically, if you haven’t tried all of their salsas, especially the jalapeño, you must. I personally believe that the range from mild to crazy hot goes a little like this: tomatillo > piquin > jalapeño > habanero. Salsa Limon says that piquin is spicer than the jalapeño, but try it at your own risk.
The difference between this location and the others, as previously mentioned, is that they have booooooze to calm your fired-up taste buds. I would recommend the sour margarita as it’s as pure a margarita as you can get here. All the limes are squeezed by their fun orange juice machine regularly, so it’s fresh fresh fresh. Not into margraitas? You can also add rum, vodka, or gin to their agua frescas. I personally enjoy the hibiscus tea with gin.
Bonus- This location is perfect for late night. I have always felt that downtown Fort Worth was lacking in late night eats- problem solved. They are open till 3 am Friday and Saturday nights. Double bonus- they have a pretty great patio that looks onto the streets of downtown.