While most people know Firestone and Robertson Distillery(F&R) for their TX Blended Whiskey, their original plan of creating a bourbon is FINALLY hitting store shelves. (Actually, it probably didn’t hit many shelves because of the high demand for the product … and it was sold out within 15 minutes on those shelves!) The first bottles of TX Bourbon were released at the distillery on December 10. People started lining up around 7am the morning of to make sure they were able to get their hands on a bottle. (F&R was only planning on selling to about three hundred bottles, yet they ended up having to cut the line at 750.) Leaving a few hundred people without as well as leaving few bottles for liquor store shelves. I personally know that a Spec’s store in Fort Worth had a line waiting for the shipment. (… leaving those of us with 9 to 5s to revert to signing up for a wait list and hoping for our phones to ring.)
Now to Fort Worth’s newest shinning star–the bourbon. F&R prides itself on using local everything. They use Texas corn, Texas soft red winter wheat, Texas water, and Texas yeast. (The yeast strain they use was cultivated from a pecan tree in Somervell County.) Even the DNA analysis of the yeast took place in Fort Worth inside a TCU lab. (Go frogs.)
F&R is truly cultivating a Texas product. Once the mash is distilled, it goes into charred oak barrels for a minimum of 2 years. (Bourbon must be aged for 2 years by law). The oak barrels are what give the bourbon its color and flavor. The product that comes off the still is essentially moonshine, a clear corn whiskey. As temperatures fluctuate throughout the year, the whiskey interacts with the oak barrels, taking on some of its flavor notes. When hot, the oak barrel’s pores open up and the whiskey permeates into the oak. When cold, the oak barrel’s pores shrink and force the whiskey back into the barrel. This interaction is the key to making great bourbon. Without that interaction, the bourbon would not get the color and flavor from the oak. F&R barreled their first bourbon in March 2012. A long four and a half years later, they bottled that first batch.
I was honored to be one of the first people to sneak a taste of the bourbon. The first smell provides a soft hint of the oak barrel, and the first sip provided a hint of vanilla and a short, smooth finish. (The sweetness is what we’ve come to expect from F&R products, so we’re good with it.) As someone who enjoys bourbon, I was hooked from the first sip. It didn’t have a sting that I get from some other brands.
Now that we’ve gotten the fun out of the way, I’ll clear a little something up that may be lurking in the back of your mind … yes, it can be called “bourbon”. Some think that a spirit has to be made in Kentucky to be called “bourbon”, but not so. “The Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits (27 C.F.R. 5) state that bourbon made for U.S. consumption must be: produced in the United States, made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn, aged in new, charred oak containers, distilled to no more than 160 proof, entered into the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof, [and] bottled at 80+ proof.” (Thanks Wikipedia!) So there.
For those of you lucky enough to get a bottle of this first release, congratulations (I’m jealous). For everyone else, wait a few months and then you’ll get your turn … it’s truly worth the wait.
Before the craziness of Thanksgiving, I had the interesting opportunity to witness Christie Brinkley arrive at the Southlake Tom Thumb on horseback. This momentous (yet bizarre) occasion was to present her new line of organic prosecco. You heard that right … you can now feel good–and dare I say, healthy–about your drinking habits. And if you’re anything like me, sparkling wine is a daily indulgence, so the fact that there’s now an organic line is HUGE. Her line actually includes three different wines: a zero sugar sparkling white wine, a sparkling rosé wine, and a Prosecco DOC brut.
After Christie’s grand entrance, we were escorted inside the store where there was a massive line waiting for the chance to have a bottle signed by and a picture taken with the supermodel. There were stations set up at various points where people could taste the new line and decide which bottle to purchase (but let’s be honest, I bought all of them). Available for purchase were three different organic wines:
Zero Sugar Sparkling White Wine: Made with 100% Glera organic grapes and produced with natural selected yeasts and has no residual sugar. It is an enthralling wine, that exhales a fine scent of delicious yeasts, white flowers, and grapefruit. It is fresh, velvety, creamy, and dry but it is perfectly balanced and has a pleasant acidity.
Sparkling Rosé Wine: Made with 100% Pinot Grigio organic grapes and is produced using the “Charmat Method”, which is the natural re-fermentation in autoclave. This rosé is elegant with hints of strawberry and grapefruit, which provide a fresh and fruity flavor.
Prosecco Doc BRUT: Made with 100% Glera organic grapes, which were called Prosecco grames until 2009. The BRUT is the driest version of Prosecco, but to balance it out are delicate scents of green apple and freshly baked bread.
As an avid Prosecco indulger, I was a little apprehensive about an organic line, not wanting to risk flavor for a healthier element. But these wines taste just as good as anything I would be drinking normally, which means their organic properties are just an added benefit. Another bonus: the bottles are adorned with artwork from Christie herself, which was inspired by Botticelli’s “Venus”.
You can find her entire line at Tom Thumb stores, don’t forget your Tom Thumb card for a member’s discount!
“I love this place.” That’s the text I sent to Susie as soon as I finished my first dinner experience at CiboDivino Marketplace.
As this was my first event as a Susie Drinks Dallas contributor, I went into it with the belief that there was no such thing as being too prepared, so I brought along a fellow foodie friend (so I could pick his brain) as well as a brand new notebook in which I could take many a note about the dinner. (I was tempted to bring a voice recorder just in case there was a guided tour of the space (which there was), but I decided against alienating strangers with that level of intensity. Yes … I was that kid in school.) Furious writing in my composition book would just have to do. Since the evening was relaxed and enjoyable with great company and delicious food and wine, the note taking was downgraded from excessive to thorough.
The special five-course dinner was hosted by CiboDivino owners, Daniele and Christina Puleo, as well as Executive Chef, Ryan Olmos. I was enthralled by the passion and knowledge that the team has for all aspects of the meal: a fervent dedication to responsibly-sourced ingredients, simple, yet articulate preparation of the food, a thoughtful selection of Italian and Californian wines that are hand-picked by Daniele himself, and the crafting of a space that promotes breaking bread with friends and family. By the time we were done with Daniele’s tour of each unique part of the marketplace and cafe, my appetite was ready to tackle whatever delicious goodies he and Ryan had to offer.
Before food, of course, there was wine (as it should be), and Daniele and Christina were very excited to introduce their new private label Puleo wines, currently available in Pinot Grigio and Chianti varietals. The Pinot Grigio is quite surprising–not as watery as I’m used to with most Pinot Grigios. Puleo’s expression is quite flavorful on the nose with stone fruit notes that round out into flavors of green tea and chamomile. As I would find out, this white wine paired very well with the first three courses of the meal. As for the Puleo Chianti, the wine was ripe with cherry flavors and dark fruits, and had a depth of flavor indicative of a Chianti without veering into a residual bitterness. I enjoyed this red with the meat course as well as with dessert. FUN FACT: all wines at CiboDivino are available for purchase at retail prices and can be opened and enjoyed on-premises at no additional charge. Personally, the option to enjoy a high-quality wine at a restaurant without the usual restaurant markup makes the wine taste that much better.
The appetizer course included a variety of Neopolitan-style pizzas fresh from the wood-burning Stefano Ferrara oven (flown in from Italy), quite possibly the most impressive charcuterie board that I have ever seen, and a smoked Tasmanian salmon appetizer bite that I swear encapsulates everything that CiboDivino stands for, which is “divine food.” I sampled two of the flatbread pizzas, one with a classic Margherita preparation and another with fig, arugula, and Gorgonzola cheese. Neopolitan-style is my favorite kind of pizza, and the crust was perfectly crispy on the outside with just the right amount of chew on the inside. While both were delicious, I was partial to the Margherita. (Pretty sure that I could eat a whole pizza in one sitting … I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing.)
Can we just take a moment and appreciate this charcuterie board? Have you ever seen one so beautiful? It has three kinds of house cured meats, all smoked in-house: lamb pancetta, brown sugar and Serrano ham, and beef bacon (that’s right, you heard me, BEEF BACON). The lamb pancetta, which was aged for a whopping 70 days, had a soft gaminess to it that I loved, and the beef bacon was something I’ve never experienced before. To call it delicious would be a disservice, and apparently I’m not the only to think so. Ryan told us that it’s hard to keep the beef bacon in the display case because it sells out so fast. It was perfectly savory with a familiar unctuousness that I love about bacon, except it was unmistakably beefy and very satisfying.
The highlight of the appetizer course for me, however, was the smoked Tasmanian salmon bite with cucumber cream, caper berry, and a dusting of espresso. The salmon, also cured and smoked in-house, was a tender and salty punch that was balanced by the cool cucumber cream with a kick of briny freshness from the caper berry, and the espresso dust on top added an earthy note that rounded out all of the flavors. I easily ate five or six, since I clearly don’t understand the concept of an appetizer course. (Whatever.)
Pasta was the star of the second course was the Caserecci alla Norma, served with cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and eggplant two ways on pea puree. The dish was light and flavorful, with the pea puree serving as a fresh, delicate sauce that complemented the natural flavors of the fresh vegetables beautifully.
The third course highlighted a different kind of pasta, Fettuccine al Limone. This was my favorite of the two pasta courses; the perfectly al dente ribbons were enveloped in an ethereally light and creamy marscapone cheese with fresh zucchini, leeks, fresh mint, and fragrant lemon zest. The flavors were full and satisfying without being overly filling. (I’m also a huge supporter of lemon on everything, so I loved every bite of this dish.)
Then came the fourth course, the crown jewel, which was brought out on a large wooden meat board. CiboDivino proudly serves 44 FARMS meats, and our group was lucky enough to sample the perfectly seasoned coulotte cuts served alongside caramelized onions and arugula. The marketplace is the only spot in town where you can go in and buy raw cuts of renowned 44 FARMS beef, and they will even grill it for you (free of charge) if you decide you’d like to enjoy your steak at one of the many communal tables inside or on the spacious dog-friendly patio.
Needless to say, by the end of the fourth course, I was stuffed. At this point, I was chastising myself for going HAM on the appetizers. That didn’t stop me from partaking in something sweet, though. For dessert, Daniele and Christina served bite-sized dessert offerings from their cafe. I, close to a food coma, still managed to snag a Raspberry Lavender Truffle, because no matter how full I am, a meal does not feel like it has concluded until I’ve had something sweet. This two-bite flavor bomb was a wonderful ending to an unbelievably delicious meal. The truffle was deeply chocolate with lavender lending an assertive floral note that cut through the richness beautifully.
Everything about dinner at CiboDivino was delightful. The marketplace offers so many unique goods, some of which are available exclusively there. Daniele and Christina, as well as Ryan, were all gracious hosts with evident love and passion for what they’ve created together. It’s rare to meet people who are doing exactly what they love to do, and then for them to do it well, and humbly. It was an honor to be a part of the entire experience. I personally cannot wait to visit again soon.
CiboDivino also has a wrap-around indoor/outdoor bar with 11 local beers and one Italian import beer on draft.
Paciugo gelato is also available at the cafe, along with Lavazza coffee.
Food menus are generally not published on the website, as dishes are determined by the freshest produce available at the farmer’s market on any given day.
The marketplace is open 7 days a week, from 8AM – 10PM daily.
They also host occasional wine and beer dinners and are currently prepping for their one-year anniversary party next month.
Designed with the trendy “pickleback” shot in mind, The Pickle Juice Company has announced their brand new product, The Pickle Juice Chaser. What is the big “dill”, you might ask? (Yeah, I made the pun … whatever.) The chaser provides 10 times the electrolytes, vitamins, and zinc and is ready to easily pour out of a bottle (forget making a mess with old fashioned pickle jars).
The Pickle Juice Company boasts 15+ years in the pickle juice arena, but up until now their primary focus remained in the innumerable health benefits in this powerful beverage. The juice is a big hit for pickle-lovers nationwide and those looking for a 100% natural, healthy thirst quencher. Pickle juice is proven to prevent dehydration and muscle cramping, which has also made it a great choice for athletes of all levels. (Yes, drinking can be considered a sport.)
As a pickle lover myself, I was eager to give The Pickle Juice Chaser a shot … a literal shot, by trying the infamous pickleback shot first. I found the chaser a satisfying balance of savory and salty. To my surprise, it completely took away the harsh sting that can follow a shot of whiskey. The aftertaste was as if I bit into a juicy dill pickle, slightly salty with full pickle flavor.
The Pickleback 1 shot Jameson Irish Whiskey
1 shot Pickle Juice Chaser
Pour each shot into separate shot glasses. Drink the whiskey shot immediately followed by the shot of Pickle Juice Chaser.
If you aren’t into shots but want to try the chaser, The Pickle Juice Chaser works great in cocktails and martinis as well.
The Dirty Pickle Martini 8 oz gin or vodka
½ teaspoon dry vermouth
2 tablespoons Pickle Juice Chaser
2 pickled okra spears for garnish
Add ice halfway up the cocktail shaker. Add gin, vermouth and pickle juice. Shake well and strain into 2 martini glasses. Garnish with a pickled okra spears.
’Tis the season for good cheergenerosity big freakin’ family gatherings. Do you have a game plan for ensuring your loved ones remain in a holly-jolly mood? If you don’t, you should. Arrive armed and ready, and even your Aunt Irma (you know, the one who dresses her cats in little outfits and takes them for walks in a stroller) will be feeling merry and bright by the end of the evening. Allow me to introduce two festive new spirits on the scene- just in time for the holidays- sure to please everyone on your naughty AND nice list …
First, meet Jim Beam Apple, Jim Beam’s newest offering. With a refreshing take on family tradition, Jim Beam distillers brought together the taste of crisp, green apples and Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. The result is a perfect balance of apple and delicious bourbon, with a light, juicy twist. I found Jim Beam Apple to be delightfully smooth and sippable straight or on the rocks, with a bright, apple flavor, and mellow, oaky undertones.
Jim Beam Apple is also perfect for crafting simple, cravable cocktails. Here are two to try this holiday season:
Hot Apple 1 part Jim Beam® Apple
Build in a heat proof mug. Top with whipped cream.
Jim Beam Apple & Soda 1 part Jim Beam® Apple
2 parts Club Soda
Build over ice in a tall highball glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge.
Secondly, I would like to introduce you to your new favorite after dinner drink:Baileys Espresso Crème Irish Cream Liqueur. I mean, what’s not to like here? As the name suggests, this new addition to the Bailey’s collection boasts a bold dark roast coffee aroma on top of the classic Irish Cream. Even granny will like this one.
Tempting cocktails you will want to sample:
Espresso Martini 2 ounces Baileys Espresso Créme
1/4 oz Vodka
1/4 oz Espresso
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shake filled with ice. Shake well and strain into a Martini glass.
Bailey’s Eggnog 1 1/4 ounces Baileys Espresso Créme
1/4 oz Irish Whiskey
3 oz milk
1 egg, unwhisked (optional)
Add ingredients to a shaker and shake vigorously. Strain into a glass. Add a pinch of nutmeg and a cinnamon stick to garnish.
Enjoy these holiday spirits responsibly, and preferably in this mug. Happy Holidays!
I was graciously provided with complimentary bottles of Bailey’s Espresso Créme and Jim Beam Apple for my sampling pleasure. Both were, in fact, delicious.
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.