Category Archives: Reviews

Gold Bar Whiskey: It’s What Outside That Counts

I firmly believe there is a time and place for everything in the world of spirits. Yes, it’s nice to find a really great sipping whiskey or a gin with a few different notes that make a unique G&T, but I’m also intrigued by novelties. Visiting a new place? Hit me with your crazy, local novelty liquor. (Even you, Chicago … malört me.) Got a crazy bottle or random flavor idea to throw at me? Well you should know I’m the guy who went on like a full two year moonshine bender, just because I could. And I’m the guy who agreed to review Captain Morgan’s Jack-O Blast for Susie.

If you want to know exactly how Gold Bar Whiskey tastes, the easy review is that it’s fine. It’s a tad sweet with notes of honey and vanilla plus a bit of heat at the end. I would recommend it in a cocktail over it being a sipping whiskey. (And some cocktail recipes are included for you below.) There’s a bit of information on the bottle about being finished in French oak wine casks from Napa Valley (swanky), with a cursory line about the contents being a mash bill of rye, corn and barley. But the bulk of the information is about the gold packaging and the art on it. So, again, this is all fine. You will sip this, nod and go “alright, cool,” like me and our three other tasters, then you’ll start talking about the packaging if it hasn’t already been a large part of the conversation.

So, about the packaging … drumroll … it’s a giant faux gold bar.

Lay it flat and pretend you stole it from the world’s drunkest mint while cackling like a super villain.
… Use it for balance and display it, letting all your friends know that you have achieved the level of success required to drink from a golden container.
… Allow it to be a conversation starter about how the United States made a mistake abandoning the gold standard in the 1930s.
… Do a few “Austin Powers: Goldmember” lines until no one wants to talk to you. “I love goooold … the taste of it, the smell of it, the texture.”
… Use is as a photo prop. (Because, you will.) Make sure to search Instagram for those aspirational shots that will make you feel like you are part of something. By drinking gold, you truly become gold … right?

Ok, if you made it this far, I will again stress the whiskey is fine. You can make a pretty decent cocktail from it. I’d recommend it as a novelty for parties or housewarming parties, because think how cool it’ll be to be thought of every time someone comments on the giant gold bar on your friend’s bar. Again, there’s a time and a place for everything, so if you need to set a scene or mood or just want the pics from your next gathering to pop, this is a cool way to switch things up.

The Libertine

LIBERTINE
4oz Gold Bar® Whiskey
2oz Fresh Lemon Juice
2oz Simple Syrup
2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary
2 Tsp. Orange Marmalade
1 Tbsp. Maple Syrup
1 Tbsp. Fresh Orange Juice
1 Egg White

New York Sour

NEW YORK SOUR
2oz Gold Bar® Whiskey
1oz Lemon Juice
1oz Liber&Co Gum Syrup
.5oz Red Wine


Gold Bar Whiskey
goldbarwhiskey.com
$39.99 -$49.99 per 750ML bottle
ABV: 80 proof, 40% ABV
Mash: blended whiskey, approximately 88% corn, 9% rye, 3% barley
Finished: French Oak Cabernet wine casks from the Napa Valley
Age: no age statement

Available in 27 states and 12 countries globally. Distilled in San Francisco, CA

***Brian was given a bottle of Gold Bar Whiskey to try out for a complete review.*** Images courtesy of Gold Bar Whiskey.

Victorious Cocktail Class

It was a rainy Saturday afternoon as I entered through the front door of Tiny Victories in Oak Cliff. I made myself comfortable in a seat at the bar of this cozy bar, flooded with daylight.

My professor for the day: Ryan Payne, veteran Dallas cocktail bartender
Today’s subject: How to make a wide selection of different cocktails
The Assignment: Make and subsequently sample said boozy creations

If my classes were more like this one, I would’ve had a perfect attendance record in college. (I mean … I was close already, but it would have been easier to get to perfect.)

For anyone not yet familiar with the cocktail bar off Davis and Tyler in Oak Cliff, the establishment opened back in February of this year and was warmly welcomed by OC locals and travelers alike. The vibe is intimate, warm, and a touch irreverent. At any given time, you may catch an episode of “Bob Ross: Beauty is Everywhere” or movies like “Cruel Intentions” or “Caddyshack” playing on flatscreens mounted on the backbar.

The bar boasts an awesome happy hour from 4-7PM every weekday when you can get cocktails for 50% off as well as other daily specials. In the mood for Trivia Night? That’s Tuesday.  Oak Cliff Network Night? Oh, that’s the first Wednesday of every month. Craving a complimentary hotdog on Football Sundays? They’ve got you covered.

If all of that weren’t enough, Tiny Victories also hosts cocktail classes for larger groups and special events, and I was fortunate enough to receive an invite to get a sneak peek into what a class like that entails. Turns out, it entails a lot of interacting with a charismatic and knowledgeable bartender while he makes delicious drinks for me to enjoy.

I was made for this class.

From Daiquiris to Aviations, Sbagliatos and Americanos to Old Fashioneds and Queens Park Swizzles, Whiskey Sours to Miami Vices, Ryan walked us through each step of creating each kind of cocktail. The informal nature of the class made it easy to enjoy the education along with the cocktail consumption.

For any inquiries about attending your own cocktail class, contact Ryan Payne, Managing Partner at Tiny Victories.


TINY VICTORIES
tinyvictoriesoc.com
604 N. Tyler St., Dallas (Oak Cliff)
(972)685-7055

The Easiest Host Gift for the Fall

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Big Betty. The opinions and text are all mine.

Halloween. Potlucks. Thanksgiving. Football watching parties. Sunday dinners. Holiday parties. It gets exhausting thinking about how many times you’re going to be visiting someone’s home and, if you have some manners, toting a host/hostess gift. I’ve got you covered, my friends.

This cute company, Big Betty Wine (the real OGs thanks to their first hit product, the glass that fits a whole bottle of wine) has come to the rescue. All you need to do is order a pack of their Brews for You “six pack cards” and stop by your local Trader Joe’s on the way to the party. I love stopping into Trader Joe’s as they have seasonal and favorite individual beers your can pull to create your own six pack, therefore making each six pack special to that host.

Keep a pack of these gift card boxes and Sharpie in the car to scribble a little note to the host, and you’re done. (Really … it couldn’t be much easier. And you’ll look like Superguest for not showing up empty-handed.)

The six pack “cards” ring in at $9.99 for a four pack (with Prime shipping, thank you), so stock up on these and save yourself the $3.95 you’ll usually spend on a one-time use card. (Because he can use this gift box again … and it’s all about reduce, reuse, and recycle, rigth!?)

What would your perfect six pack be?


BREWS FOR YOU
ilovebigbetty.com
Instagram: @bigbettywine

#Brews4You #ad

 

Halloween. Potlucks. Thanksgiving. Football watching parties. Sunday dinners. Holiday parties. It gets exhausting thinking about how many times you’re going to be visiting someone’s home and, if you have some manners, toting a host/hostess gift. I’ve got you covered, my friends.

This cute company, Big Betty Wine (the real OGs thanks to their first hit product, the glass that fits a whole bottle of wine) has come to the rescue. All you need to do is order a pack of their Brews for You “six pack cards” and stop by your local Trader Joe’s on the way to the party. I love stopping into Trader Joe’s as they have seasonal and favorite individual beers your can pull to create your own six pack, therefore making each six pack special to that host.

Keep a pack of these gift card boxes and Sharpie in the car to scribble a little note to the host, and you’re done. (Really … it couldn’t be much easier. And you’ll look like Superguest for not showing up empty-handed.)

The six pack “cards” ring in at $9.99 for a four pack (with Prime shipping, thank you), so stock up on these and save yourself the $3.95 you’ll usually spend on a one-time use card. (Because he can use this gift box again … and it’s all about reduce, reuse, and recycle, right!?)

What would your perfect six pack be? Visit my Instagram and comment on the post about Brews for You before October 6 for the chance to win your own pack of gift boxes!


BREWS FOR YOU
ilovebigbetty.com
Instagram/Twitter: @bigbettywine

#Brews4You #ad

The Sake Social Hour at Uchiba

When Uchi announced that it would be opening a more bar-focused concept earlier this year, I could barely contain my excitement. (Though, I know many of us Top Knot-lovers were a bit wary.) You can breathe easy, because the new concept is yoi (gooooood).

The name makes sense—the word Uchiba combines “Uchi,” which means house in Japanese, and “Ba,” bar. Since its opening on January 31, this concept brought to us by Chef Tyson Cole under the Hai Hospitality umbrella, is Uchi’s sleek and stylish little sister has been a hit for those seeking shareable bites, fabulous décor and incredible cocktails.

 

If you’re anything like me (and our friend Susie), you love a good happy hour, but really love when the good happy hour also has incredible food. That’s why I was so excited to go check out Uchiba’s Sake Social Hour, which is offered daily from 5-6:30pm and the entire menu is $10 or less! Yes, you read that right! It features delicious creations like their hot fried chicken buns, spicy crunchy tuna temaki and hama chili. Oh, and not to mention, half priced specialty cocktails.

All of the food I sampled was incredible, but you can’t miss the nigiri (which is only $2 during the social hour)! I also tried both types of temaki that is offered during the Social Sake Hour, and while it’s hard to choose a favorite, the spicy crunch tuna has a little bit of spice with which the avocado perfectly complimented. And do yourself a favor and order the hot fried chicken bun. It’s similar to Nashville hot chicken but with Asian-style flare. They definitely have a kick but nothing too overbearing.

And the cocktails … yassss. All of the specialty cocktails are half-priced during the social hour. I started out with the Too Much Heaven, which was very similar to an old fashioned but with a nice hint of lemongrass. My second choice was the Sanmittai, a refreshing blend of gin, lemongrass, black warrior shochu, cilantro, mint and basil. It’s like an herb garden in a cup—in the most delicious way possible. If specialty cocktails aren’t your thing, Uchiba also offers a variety of wine and beer for a steal.

Something to note: if after you’ve had a taste of the social hour and you need to really fulfill your Uchiba fix, you can order from the full menu at the same time! I’ve heard that the fried milk dessert is to die for.

You can either walk-in or make reservations based on availability for the Sake Social Hour. If you’re planning to check it out on a Friday or Saturday, I would definitely recommend calling at least a few days in advance since those are some of the most popular days.

Sake Social Hour: DAILY, 5-6:30pm
1/2 price all specialty cocktails
$4-5 select wine & beer
$2 nigiri (sake, avocado, or hamachi)
$2-3 yakitori (shishito yaki, pork belly, or ribeye)
$6 temaki (sake karei or spicy crunchy tuna)
$6-8 tastings (hama chili, foie gras mousse, yuca fries, or hot fried chicken buns)
$6 selected seasonal dessert


UCHIBA
uchiba.com
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214-855-5454
2817 Maple Avenue, 2nd floor (Uptown)
complimentary valet

Cover image courtesy of Uchiba.
**Thanks to Uchiba for treating Lauren to happy hour.**

Andaz Napa—a Napa Valley Respite

Napa is hard. (Stick with me here.) Between multiple wine tastings and tours of more barrel rooms than you can count, rich food at every meal bloating you up (who can eat like that every meal!?), and the long drives through the valley, it all makes for a wildly exhausting “vacation”. So, after the long days of fun on my last trip to Napa, I was delighted to come home to the Andaz in Downtown Napa.

Its beautiful, slightly rustic yet modern decor and the incredibly friendly valets welcome you and start your visit on a wildly high note. And to make the welcome complete, you’re given a glass of wine.       *Hello, new favorite hotel e-ver.*       The hotel marries natural elements and high-end design, giving guests a ridiculously comfortable yet luxurious experience. The lobby offers a ton of comfortable seating and is roomy enough to make sure guests aren’t crowded. (I mean, waiting on people is the whole point of a lobby, so you may as well do it comfortably!)

The location is right in the thick of things with easy access to the highway up to Yountville, Oakville, etc., and plenty of local shops and restaurants. Our room faced Main Street overlooking Oenotri, which ended up being one one of the many amazing meals we had in Napa.

The rooms themselves are clean and spacious with a comfortable flow. Look for hardwood floors, fireplaces*, a desk, and a fully stocked bar. Our room had a little sitting area that gave us an extra space to relax and unwind. Oh, and the bed … that bed was hard to leave. The pillows were perfect for a full cocoon situation.
Pro Tip: Looking at the room layouts while writing this made me sad that I didn’t think to request a balcony. So make sure you do that.

In my opinion, the most delightful part of these lovely rooms was its bathing options. Between the roomy eastern white marble bathrooms with rainfall showerheads in wildly spacious (curtainless) walk-in showers and a freestanding soaking bathtub in the bedroom*, getting clean was always an enjoyable process. And with so much room and Jack and Jill sinks, there wasn’t any elbow throwing to get mirror time.

Outside of the rooms, the hotel offered quite a few appealing elements. I was happy to stumble upon an outdoor oasis (apparently called The Mercantile Terrace) with cabanas and fire pits. I spent some time out there taking calls here and there and sorting through work emails in peace on their complimentary high-speed WiFi. Other standard perks like free non-boozy drinks and snacks in the room and wine tastings in the lobby made the us feel like we were real VIPs.

If all of this isn’t convincing enough, it’s a surprisingly affordable option when hotels in Napa Valley can cost you upwards of $700 a night. For my money, I’m staying here every visit. (They should just go ahead and put my name on a suite.)

I know this may sound like one of those “there’s no way this place was that awesome” kind of reviews, I have to insist it was. The Andaz Napa was such a delightful respite that it really is at the top of my list for future visits.


ANDAZ NAPA
napa.andaz.hyatt.com
1450 First Street, Napa, California
707-687-1234

Images courtesy of Andaz Napa. My visit to the Andaz Napa was partially comped.
*amenities available only in select rooms

ORNO—No Ordinary Wine Bar

I promise you, I had every intention of ordering wine when I arrived at ORNO last night. It is a wine bar, after all. As I walked through the front door, I saw the matte black wall of wine—individual bottles stood on floating shelves with their respective names and origins neatly written out in white chalk. Beneath this display sits a long, cushy leather banquette, the majority of which was already occupied by what I observed to be a big, happy group of friends who were enjoying the company and their meal.

Courtesy of Orno


The restaurant has a cozy, neighborhood vibe with good music, perfectly low lighting, and a quirky live aquarium display on a large flat-screen TV set right in the middle of the back bar.


… now we come to one of the reasons why I never ordered the wine. I perused the cocktail list that the server presented, and quickly spotted a spirit that I didn’t even know I was craving: mezcal. As if on cue, the bartender walked over from behind the bar to say hello and ask if we wanted to order some drinks. My date ordered a sangria while I ordered an El Viejo.


Once I tasted the mezcal, I never turned back. Every cocktail I subsequently ordered centered around the smoky, agave spirit, and I only requested that each new mezcal drink be different from the last.

Turns out, the friendly bartender was Nael Rodriguez, the owner of this fine establishment. He was also a food runner, server, greeter, gracious host, and seeming jack of all trades. During the meal, he informed me that, during ORNO’s design phase, he made sure that everything in the build-out facilitated the ability to jump from one position to the other with as much ease as possible. From the bar, he could still an eye on the food coming out of the kitchen as well as on the front door to welcome guests. It’s actually brilliant.

Speaking of food coming out of the kitchen … ORNO’s cuisine offerings are top notch New American bites, and by “New American”, I mean it highlights aspects of many cultures that make up the fabric of our wonderful country. For example, I requested that he surprise my date and me with a three-course dinner of his choosing, no dietary restrictions or food allergies to worry about. Nael smiled and disappeared, promising that our first course would arrive within an hour (he’s a funny guy, that Nael!).

Within a few minutes, a dish of  sweet and spice lacquered pork belly bites arrived at our table, with earthy and sweet aromas wafted my way and made my mouth water. The meat melted in my mouth, and the fresh slaw of julienne veggies in the center offered an appropriate balance to the depth and unctuousness of the fatty pork.


Not a bad start, Mr. Rodriguez.

Nael then took us from Asian-inspired fare to more Italian flavor with the Pig & Fig flatbread.  The crispy, thin crust held a light layer of Alouette Brie cheese that was topped with delicate slices of prosciutto, dollops of fig preserves, and bits of candied cayenne walnuts. Simple. Delicious. No one item overpowering the rest, each playing off one another so well that before I knew it, the whole flatbread disappeared. Oops!


So far, Nael is two for two. Where was he going to take us next?
To the Caribbean!

For our last course, Nael presented us with the Voodoo Shrimp—a half pound of jumbo (and I mean JUMBO) shrimp dressed in a Caribbean-inspired BBQ sauce that intrigued us to the point that we tried to identify as many spices in the sauce as we could. There was such complexity and depth of flavor that eventually Nael had to come by and reveal that there were no less than 18 spices that make up the sauce and that the sauce had to be made a few days prior to serving so all of the flavors could deepen.

It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? As consumers, we go eat out at restaurants and the dishes we enjoy take mere minutes for us to consume and enjoy. We usually don’t think about the time and work that goes into composing our meals, but in the moments when we do stop to really consider it, it’s usually when some part of us recognizes that the food was made with thought, care, and love.

… and that’s ORNO.

I truly love it when a meal inspires me to wax romantic about the dining experience, and the best part about this meal is just how comfortable the setting was. The space housed around 24 seats in the dining room, and no more than maybe 8 seats at the bar. If I lived in the Cedar Springs area, I could see myself stopping in there at least once a day, even if just to say hi to the staff or to grab a cocktail.

ORNO is a neighborhood gem that’s bursting at the seams with soul. And, in a tricky restaurant city like Dallas where every week is a laundry list of flashy openings and abrupt closings, I hope that ORNO’s quiet charm and culinary approachability ensure that it’s here to stay a while.


ORNO Restaurant
facebook.com/ornodallas
3908 Cedar Springs Road, Dallas (Cedar Springs)
(469) 726-2004

Closed Mondays, Open Tues/Wed: 11AM-10PM, Thurs-Sat: 11AM-11PM, Sun: 11AM-4PM

Savor the New Happy Hour at Savor Gastropub

Savor Gastropub in Klyde Warren Park hit us with the real deal—their all-new happy hour menu has arrived … and I’m just wondering what took it so long. With great deals on drinks and food, there’s no reason to not make it in to their (air conditioned!!) digs and try it out sooner than later.

For those who haven’t been yet, Savor Gastropub is a glass box-esque restaurant right on the North Western side of Klyde Warren Park. They have a chef-driven menu with shareable plates (or not shareable if you’re anything like me) and options for lunch, dinner, brunch, and even a pre-show option if you’re in a hurry to catch the latest performance downtown.

During their new happy hour, you can expect to see these great choices:
$3 select beers
$6 Sazeracs, Old Fashioneds, Sidecars, French 75s, Moscow Mules, Oleo Daiquiris, select wines, and their dangerously delicious frosés

Also included in the Happy Hour are these tasty dishes:
$3 Tator Tot Poutine smothered in cheese curds, gravy, and bacon
$10 Margherita Flatbread
$6 the Q Dog drowning in bacon, onion, relish, cheese, ketchup, and mustard
$6 Nashville Hot Chicken Sliders with horseradish pickle, roasted onion, maple vinaigrette on a brioche bun
and so much more!

Their delicious and highly flavorful happy hour runs 4-7pm Monday through Friday. Even more clutch, they offer happy hour ALL DAY when it rains or temps rise above 100ºF, which kind of makes the heat somewhat bearable.


SAVOR GASTROPUB
SavorGastropub.com
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2000 Woodall Rodgers Freeway (Downtown)

Book Review: Booze & Vinyl

Cocktails and vinyl records—two of my favorite things. So, when Susie sent this book along (because she knew I’d enjoy reviewing it while my record player spun out a tune), I immediately started thinking of what I’d listen to while reading.

Brother and sister duo, André and Tenaya Darlington, collaborated to create an amazing book that pairs records from the 1950s through the 2000s with a perfect set of cocktails. Each highlighted album has a Side A and Side B set to a complimentary cocktail pairing. There are seventy featured albums including Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club, Thriller, Pet Sounds, and Hotel California … classics we can all appreciate.

Of course, the book is all about the cocktails, but it is so much more. The pictures are amazing and the authors also included tips on throwing your own boozy listening party. The book is broken up into four genres—rock, dance, chill, and seduce. (Ohh la la.) No matter what mood you are in, you can easily find a cocktail and record to compliment.

I picked two cocktails out of the book for a sampling; the Harvey Wallbanger paired with the Saturday Night Fever album. The Harvey Wallbanger dates back to the 1970s and is basically a jazzed-up screwdriver. The jazziness comes from the addition of Galliano, a sweet, herbal liqueur.

The Suffering Bastard is a classic tiki cocktail that the authors urge you to serve in a simple glass. This has become the drink of choice in my house lately. The combination of gin and bourbon is fantastic. This went nicely with the Johnny Cash Folsom Prison album, though I’d have thought they’d go for a bit more tropical since it’s tiki.


BOOZE & VINYL
Purchase From Amazon
boozeandvinyl.com
Author Website
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