In the wonderful, wide world of alcohol, you’d be hard-pressed to think of another drinking tradition that is more inherently American than traditional hand-crafted bourbon whiskey. After all, Americans have been sipping on the stuff since the 1820s when it originated in either Kentucky or Louisiana (no one can seem to agree), making it practically as all-American as apple pie and baseball. Spirit of America, produced by Hobson & Roberts Distilling Company, has taken this notion a step further; when you purchase a bottle of their handcrafted bourbon whiskey, they donate $1 to Hope for the Warriors, making your enjoyment of their award winning spirit practically patriotic.
Spirit of America (ABV 43%/ 86 Proof) is distilled in a unique mash bill featuring 51% corn, 45% wheat, and 4% malted barley; no rye grain to be found. It is produced “grain to glass,” chill-filtered, blended, and bottled at the company-owned distillery in Indianapolis, IN.
You now know you can feel warm and fuzzy about your purchase of Spirit of America, but let’s ask the honest question: Is it any good? The distillers were kind enough to send me a bottle to find out for myself; I am happy to tell you, the answer is a resounding, “YAAAASSSSS!!”
Spirit of America bourbon has a notably warm aroma, with hints of vanilla, toasted oak, spice, and sweet caramel. This whiskey is silky smooth and surprisingly mellow on the palate, with a notable sweetness suggestive of vanilla, caramel, and honey. The finish is short and sweet. I found this to be an excellent “sipping whiskey,” which is high praise coming from a gal who doesn’t routinely sip whiskey. (If this endorsement makes you nervous, I can assure you my husband, who does routinely sip whiskey (among other things), whole-heartedly agreed. He was also a bigfan).
I love supporting up-and-coming businesses and brands; especially when they are local, and especially when they have a truly awesome product. Ironroot Republic is a new craft spirits distillery, located right in our back yard, in Denison, TX. I had the opportunity to attend Ironroot Republic’s launch party last month, where I met the Likarish brothers, co-founds and distillers at Ironroot Republic, who were as friendly as they were interesting to chat with. Oh, and they brought us some really tasty booze to try. And plenty of it. (Gotta love that.)
Jonathan and Robert Likarish practice their art by employing a “grain to glass” philosophy. Ninety percent of the ingredients used in Ironroot Republic products are grown within 60 miles of the distillery. Take, for example, the lemongrass grown by Head Distiller Jonathan Likarish himself, or the coriander grown by the distillers’ MOM (I’m sorry, but how adorable is that?). Additionally, Ironroot mashes, ferments, distills, barrel ages, and bottles all of their product on-site.
Currently, the brothers are offering three diverse and exciting labels:
Blue Norther Vodka: created using a non-chill filtration process, and made from the finest hand-selected Texas grains; crisp citrus and caramel essence, followed by honey sweetness, and a rich, silky mouth-feel. Full-bodied with a long, vanilla finish. 80 proof; ABV 40%; suggested retail price $25
Carpenter’s Bluff Moonshine: Texas corn whiskey at its finest, made from rare heirloom red corn; hints of fresh honeydew, white peach, and dragon fruit, followed by lychee nut, dark berries, and a lingering sweetness. 90 proof; ABV 45%; suggested retail price $25
Texas Drought Gin: grain to glass, made from local juniper, European juniper, lemongrass, and coriander. The finish is long and sweet due to the caramel wheat malt base. 80 proof; ABV 40%; suggested retail price $25
I was treated to a number of delicious cocktails featuring the full lineup of Ironroot Republic spirits, and each and every one was delicious. The brothers were kind enough to share recipes with us, and I can assure you, they ALL bear recreating. Standouts in my opinion included the Martinez, which was delightfully complex, and the Mexican Martini, which was the crowd favorite of the evening.
Martinez 1.5 oz. Texas Drought Gin
1.5 oz. Sweet Vermouth
0.5 oz. Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur (Seriously, just hunt down the Luxardo. Don’t even bother with cheap imitations.) 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with an orange peel.
Mexican Martini (pictured as featured image) 2 oz. Carpenter’s Bluff Moonshine
1 1/2 oz. Orange Liqueur (i.e. Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
2 oz. Margarita Mix
1 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
1 Splash of Sprite
Jalapeno Stuffed Olives, for Garnish
Pour the Moonshine, orange liqueur, margarita mix, lime juice, and sprite in shaker. Fill will ice and shake. Pour into martini glass, and garnish with jalapeño stuffed olive.
The Iron Word 0.75 oz. Carpenter’s Bluff Moonshine
0.75 oz. Green Chartreuse
0.75 oz. Luxardo Maraschino Cherry Liqueur
0.75 oz. Lime Juice
Shake with ice and strain into chilled coupe glass.
Denison Donkey 1.5 oz. Blue Norther Vodka
4 oz. Ginger Beer
1/6 oz. Lime Juice
Combine vodka and ginger beer in a copper mug or highball glass filled with ice. Add lime juice, stir gently, and garnish with a lime slice.
One final thing you should know: the Likarish brothers have some really awesome stuff going on at the distillery, above and beyond what you would expect from your requisite Saturday afternoon tour. Yeah, they’ve got that, too, but here is a full lineup of all of the awesome goings on at the Denison distillery:
Friday evenings: the distillery bar is open from 5-9 PM; a tour is available at 6 PM.
Saturdays: the distillery bar is open from 2-9 PM; tours are available at 2, 4, and 6.
First weekend of every month: Bloody Mary bar with 20+ ways to dress it up. (personally, I am very excited to check this one out!)
Distillery tours cost $5; tours have a 20 person max. Your $5 ticket goes toward your purchase of Iroonroot Distillery swag!
A huge shout-out to the bartenders at Alamo Drafthouse Richardsonfor expertly preparing these tasty libations; I always forget how awesome the patio is here. I would go here just to drink, no movie attached. Seriously.
Cruzan’s newcomer to the scene packs a sweet berry flavor with just the right hint of tangy lemon. At 21% alc. vol., Cruzan Blueberry Lemonade is a perfectly sippable, lazy-day patio drink. It mixes perfectly with fruit juices (hello, boozy blueberry lemonade…), iced tea, and more.
I mixed up this light and refreshing little number, as suggested by the good folks at Cruzan …
Cruzan® Blueberry Lemonade Cooler
2 parts Cruzan® Blueberry Lemonade Rum
3/4 part Fresh Grapefruit Juice
1 small pinch Sea Salt
If you are feeling like stepping up your fancy drink game, here is a mojito recipe that couldn’t be a more perfect summertime beverage …
Cruzan® Blueberry Lemonade Mojito
6 to 8 mint leaves
3 ounces club soda
2 ounces Cruzan® Blueberry Lemonade Rum
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1 lime wedge or splash fresh lime juice
Garnish: Mint sprig and additional blueberries
Cruzan Blueberry Lemonade Rum
750 ml bottle $15
Buy it at your local liquor store or online.
*Cruzan graciously provided me with a bottle of a Blueberry Lemonade Rum for my sipping pleasure.
I am constantly flailing around with some sort of diet or disproportionately ambitious exercise plan. It’s just an unhappy fact of life. Unfortunately for me, I love food- and BOOZE- as much as the next gal (ok…possibly more than the next gal); an inconvenient truth at best. I hate undoing all of my hard work at the gym with liquid calories (even if they are delicious). In light of my recent introduction to Skinnygirl Vodka, I was excited to learn Skinnygirl has rolled out two new products for our guiltless imbibing pleasure: Skinnygirl Pinot Noir and Skinnygirl Spicy Lime Margarita. I was even more excited when I was informed that I would be receiving a bottle of each, for my sampling pleasure.
First, let’s talk about the Skinnygirl Pinot Noir. I had never tried a “lightened up” vino prior to this occasion, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Skinnygirl’s pinot has the aroma of dark cherries and bursts with cherry flavor to match, along with notes of toasty oak and vanilla. This is a very smooth pinot with a soft, silky mouthfeel. I am not a great drinker of reds, but this one was light enough for me to genuinely enjoy – to the point where I would buy it for myself. Let’s talk calories. (Wait – what? Buzzkill!) Skinnygirl’s Pinot Noir touts 100 calories in a 5oz pour. For comparison’s sake, a “conventional” 5oz glass of pinot noir contains about 125 calories. At first, you may think to yourself, “So, I’m saving 25 calories? Big deal”. But, think about this, friends: A typical bottle of wine contains about five 5oz pours. Multiply those 25 calories/glass you are saving by 5, and it totals: 125 calories. So, think of if this way: if I were to drink the entire bottle of Skinnygirl Pinot Noir (not that…uh…I make a regular habit out of drinking an entire bottle of wine, or anything…), at a savings of 125 calories per bottle, it’s basically like getting a bonus glass of wine for “free”. Suhhh-weet.
I am a huge fan of cocktails with a “kick,” so I was super excited to try the Skinnygirl Spicy Lime Margarita. This is a ready-to-drink product, best served over ice, with a wedge of lime, or even a slice of fresh jalapeno if you’re feeling saucy. Skinnygirl’s Spicy Lime Margarita, made with blue agave silver tequila and triple sec, actually exceeded my expectations. These margs offer a beautiful balance of bright lime flavor, spicy chili, and that familiar tequila bite. This cocktail has an undeniable kick, but it doesn’t come close to approaching overkill. Really, it was just lovely. The margaritas paired perfectly with my little Monday night chips and guacamole fiesta, and my dude-fiancée repeatedly/unabashedly voiced his enthusiasm for his cocktail, “Skinnygirl” label be damned. He assured me that I can buy this one “any time”; I definitely see myself following through accordingly. Skinnygirl Spicy Lime Margaritas contain 100 calories per 5 oz serving. Sugar-laden margarita mixes frequently served at Mexican restaurants can contain in the upwards of 750 calories in one cocktail, so Skinnygirl Margs are basically a steal, calorically speaking! No brainer here, y’all.
I’m admittedly not much of a cream-liquor kind of gal; I typically prefer my booze in a wine, pilsner or lowball glass, so I approached the Amarula Cream warily.
WHAT a mistake that was. This stuff is awesome. The mildly citrusy cool aunt to the Bailey’s-swilling, “if it a’int broke don’t fix it” Uncle. The girl who still wears overalls but is actually the most popular kid in school. (Get the picture.) Stuffy Amarula is not.
You can literally make anything from a Coke Float to a highbrow shot with it. And yes, I just used the words “highbrow” and “shot” in the same sentence. Trust me.
Made exclusively in South Africa*, Amarula is produced using hand-harvested Marula fruit which is fermented into wine and then double-distilled into a clear spirit. Once it reaches this moonshine-ish state, the Amarula is aged for 24 months in French oak barrels then blended with fresh cream. The resulting liqueur has an extremely distinct toasted vanilla flavor with the subtlest hint of citrus.
You’ll rack your brain trying to put your finger on the exact flavor (my husband and I tossed back many a cocktail trying), but I recommend you just take it for what it is- delicious- and enjoy it.
The recipes for the cocktails we made are below, but Amarula is a really approachable liqueur, so if the mood strikes … get creative.
Amarula Brown Elephant | This one was delicious, and I wouldn’t judge you for plopping a scoop of ice cream on top.
2oz Amarula Cream
3oz Coca Cola
Pour Amarula and milk into shaker with ice. Shake and strain into tall cocktail glass filled with ice, top with Coca Cola and stir gently.
Amarula Tusk at Dusk | We loved this cocktail. The espresso gave it a nice, after dinner drink vibe and we actually considered re-making it as a warm beverage a-la Irish Coffee. All good things.
1oz Amarula Cream
1oz chilled espresso (Starbucks Double Shots worked great)
1/2oz Grand Marnier
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass.
Now, the next time you find yourself craving a cocktail, skip the Skyy and reach for the Amarula Cream. You’ll thank me.
AMARULA CREAM www.amarula.com $19.99 (750mL) Amarula Cream is meant to be refrigerated after opening as it uses fresh cream.
**Please note that Rachel was given a bottle of Amarula to review.**
Sparkle & Dine is a local company created to help those of us who don’t have all week to prepare for get-togethers … and do for a decent price at that! Started by Stacia Marlow, a former L.A. costume designer, she calls it “instant style in a box” inspired by current trends and staple designers.
The kits are meant for parties of four, and you can order extra settings if you’re expecting more guests. Most kits arrive with a runner, centerpiece, napkins, chargers, and place card holders.
The kits range from holiday themed to all occasion, so take a break this holiday and let Sparkle and Dine take care of the table! I was sent the Kate Spade Inspired Glam Table Style kit. The kit actually inspired me to have a little dinner party of my own and my guests were raving about the setup.
The only snafu I ran into was that we put flowers in the place card holders that covered the names. We figured out that putting the cards in vertically would have been the perfect fix.
Other options for the holidays are elegant yet modern. (I’m kind of dying for the Ralph Lauren-inspired tartan set.)
If you want a little inspiration, make sure to check out their Pinterest account!
College taught me a number of things, but one of its most important lessons was my love for whiskey. It’s an acquired taste that began as a means to drink with the boys and developed into my own guilty pleasure. I like it over ice or with a splash of ginger ale.
Typically, whiskey offers a slight bite with some smoky, woody qualities. Particularly, Ké Spirits’ Whiskey (wKé) delivers a rich, smooth flavor of grain and wild flower that brings a lasting bite. It’s a strong, but pleasing aroma of elements.
Ké describes its grain components as an uncommon combination that is processed by slicing, rolling, and in some cases, crushing them to capture and retain the unique flavors. Then comes the two-phase fermentation process in which the temperature and environment are closely controlled. Lastly, the liquids are distilled through small handmade copper pot stills in a two-phase copper distillation column. This lends hand to its opulent caramel color.
The legend of Ké Spirits originates in the late 1400s when the art of distillation made its way to Ireland. Irish Catholic monks used it to craft a beverage, whiskey, (“water of life” in English). It was made quickly and crudely to offer a barely drinkable solution. Then, in 1498 Padraig Barry discovered a grain process that turned young, hardly drinkable whiskey into a surprisingly rich and smooth beverage.
Fast forward 470 years, Joe Barry learns of secret family stories detailing the mysterious “Ké” distillation that generations before him worked to protect from kings, invaders, thieves, and raiders. After retiring in 2007, Joe Barry journeyed to Ireland to unveil the truth of “Ké.” For the next five years he worked with distillers to recreate the original process himself and now offers three varieties: Ké (vodka), tKé (tequila), and wKé (whiskey).
Keep warm by the fire with a glass straight. If that doesn’t do the trick, here is a recipe provided by Ké spirits for a wKé Irish Coffee:
wKé IRISH COFFEE
1 ½ oz wKé
4 oz Freshly Brewed Coffee
2 tsp Dark Brown Sugar
Fresh Whipped Cream
Nutmeg, Cinnamon, or Chocolate
Combine wKé, coffee, and brown sugar in a warm Irish coffee glass and stir until sugar is dissolved. Top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg, cinnamon, or chocolate.
I enjoy brunch. Good thing for me, because I’m pretty sure if you live in DFW and the “powers that be” find out that you are ANTI-BRUNCH, stealthy ninjas will break into your house while you sleep, extract you from your bedroom, and deposit you somewhere else. Maybe here; I’m not sure, though. In my humble opinion, the best part about the brunch ritual has nothing to do with fancy eggs or $17 french toast. Brunch drinks, my friends. Brunch drinks. More specifically, the ever-versatile Bloody Mary. When I am really honest with myself, without something tasty to sip on, eggs are just breakfast. And sometimes, especially following a particularly “spirited” Saturday night, public appearances before mid-afternoon on Sunday can be … challenging.
That being said, WHAT IF … hear me out here … WHAT IF, I were to forego said outing, and enjoy my own, fancy-pants, custom, (BOTTOMLESS!) Blood Mary bar, in the comfort of my own home? PJs + couch + dog + football +Bloody Mary bar … think about it. It’s perfect. So perfect, it had to happen. Allow me to share with you the beauty of my own, personal DIY Bloody Mary bar – and read on for some ideas on how you can construct one of your own.
I think it goes without saying, a high quality vodka is a must when concocting the perfect Bloody Mary. Let me tell y’all about Zodiac Vodka, a handcrafted, gluten-free American potato vodka, new to the market and hailing from Idaho. I can honestly say that I have not been this excited about a new spirit discovery in a long time. Zodiac is silky smooth with such a clean finish, you can literally sip it. Apparently this is attributed to the fact that Zodiac uses 100% pure water from the Snake River Aquifer, which is then filtered using hand cut Canadian Birch Charcoal. According to Zodiac, this process results in a naturally sweet, pure, gluten free, and distinct tasting vodka. I tend to agree. I used Zodiac Vodka for my Bloody Mary bar, and I suggest you do, too. You will not be disappointed.
Secondly, you are going to need to hook yourself up with an exceptionally tasty Bloody Mary mix. With so many delicious options on the market these days, there really isn’t a need to make one from scratch. Take for instance Powell & Mahoney’s Bloody Mary Mix. This classic “vintage” take on the Bloody Mary (recipe circa 1926!) is deliciously thick and robust. Mildly spicy, it serves as a perfectly delicious base- tasty enough to drink undoctored, but mild enough to be highly doctor-able. Powell & Mahoney’ s Bloody Mary mix was cast in the starring role in my Bloody Mary bar – and I highly recommend you give it a screen test in yours.
Now, let’s get started …
Make sure you have a respectably-sized glass. No one likes a tiny Bloody Mary … or one that’s hard to stir.
First, rim your glass with something delicious. Penzey’s Prime Rib Rubis a great option; use lime juice instead of water to make it stick.
Fill your glass 3/4 full+ with ice.
Fill the glass 1/3 full+ with vodka.
Top with Bloody Mary mix. (Don’t fill it too far or you won’t have room for the rest!)
Let’s talk goodies. This is the fun part. The sky is the delicious limit, and you can get as creative as you want. Here are some suggestions, ranging from the obvious to the outrageous:
– celery (duh)
– lemon or lime (duh)
– olives (spicy, garlic-stuffed, blue cheese stuffed, etc.)
– Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Blackened Redfish Magic seasoning blend
– smoked paprika
– cayenne pepper
– Worcestershire sauce (duh)
– pickle juice
– olive brine
– hot sauce
– BBQ sauce
– Chipotle Tabasco
– steak sauce
My personal philosophy tends to be something along the lines of: the more stuff I can cram into/on top of that glass, the better. So, don’t be afraid to go nuts. And the good news is, if you aren’t satisfied with your first Bloody Mary attempt, you can mosey on over to (*your very own*) kitchen and make another one.
Bottom line: everything tastes better in PJs. Sorry, not sorry, Uptown.
*I was graciously provided with complimentary products to try from Zodiac Vodka and Powell & Mahoney. Deeeee-licious!*