Category Archives: Product Review

Truly Spiked and Sparkling

I, like the rest of the world, seemed to be on a La Croix kick this summer. Light, sparkling water with a subtle flavor—sound like the perfect drink for hot weather, right? (And since our fall has been so warm, I’m still guzzling away.) Well, I might have found something even better than La Croix. (For real.)

Truly is not only a really delicious tasting sparkling water … it has an added bonus: alcohol. That’s right, booze. When I first tried, it I knew I wanted to use it as a mixer in my pool and tailgating cocktails, but I tried it on its own to start because, science. (Or something.) I had no idea that I was drinking spiked sparkling water. And this can be a good and bad thing—each Truly is 5% ABV, so be careful!

I am a Moscow Mule lover.
Reason one: they’re easy to make.
Reason two: they’re super refreshing.
I thought this would be the perfect cocktail to make with Truly Colima Lime. And after going through Truly’s website, I found that they had the same idea. I used their recipe to make my cocktail. It turned out really nice—not too sweet and just the right amount of fizz.

6 oz Truly Colima Lime
1 oz Vodka (I used Deep Eddy)
2 oz Ginger Beer (I used Reed’s)
Fresh squeezed lime
Lime slices for garnish

Visit their website for quite a few more Truly cocktail recipes (including ones that will take you into the cooler months).

All flavors of Truly have just 100 calories, 1 gram of sugar, and are naturally gluten-free. Flavors include: Colima Lima, Grapefruit and Pomelo, Pomegranate, Sicilian Blood Orange, Lemon and Yuzu.

 


Truly Spiked and Sparkling
trulyspikedsparkling.com
Instagram | Facebook | Twitter
#LiveTruly
Find Truly at Target, select grocers, gas stations, and liquor stores, or use their product locator

Disclaimer: I was given samples of Truly Spiked and Sparkling for editorial purposes.

Hennessy Paradis Impérial + Josh Henderson | Made of Precision

Discerning drinkers, rejoice. Well known cognac label Hennessy recently released a new expression, Hennessy Paradis Impérial, an exquisite, ridiculously smooth, and beautifully  balanced liquid in an almost-as-perfectly-crafted vessel.

Hennessy has one of the most extensive collections of eaux de vies (a brandy made from fruits other than grapes) in the world. In 2011, Hennessy 7th Generation Master Blender, Yann Fillioux dipped into the library to craft this recently-released expression, giving only 10 of their 10,000 eaux de vies the chance to be in this beautiful spirit. The ultra-precise selection of eaux de vies along with a unique maturation and blending makes this one of the most beautifully crafted liquids I’ve ever had the chance to try.

Hennessy Paradis Impérial has notes of jasmine and orange blossom with a delicate smokiness. It’s smooth, rich texture makes it almost too easy to sip. And that’s exactly how you’re meant to drink it—sipped neat.

The liquor itself is a work of precision, but the bottle holding it is also a work of art. They commissioned Baccarat designer, Stephanie Balini, to create a unique crystal decanter that’s a take on the traditional Hennessy shape and is finished with an 18-carat gold and silver piece adorning the collar. Since limited bottles were created, each is numbered.

Thanks to the amazing flavor and smoothness, it was easily enjoyed, and so good that we asked for a second (and third) dram.

Hennessy teamed up with Josh Henderson of “The Arrangement” and “Dallas” for the brand’s first global campaign, Made of Precision. To launch the campaign, he joined some lucky media representatives (one of which I was lucky enough to be) at NOBU for a private dinner pairing their amazing sushi and fresh fish with Hennessy Paradis Impérial. Henderson and Hennessy ambassadors spoke about the precision of the spirit and joined us for a delightful dinner.


HENNESSY PARADIS IMÉRIAL
Nose: floral freshness of jasmine and orange blossom blended with the subtle herbal notes of freshly cut grass
Flavor: a fine, light structure. The floral notes of the bouquet are also present in the flavor, tinged with a smoky, spicy accent that leads into a subtle persistence
Color: light amber
Price: ~$2,800/750mL

Images by Clark Cabus Photography

Taking on Texas: A Tale of Two Whiskeys

As a Texas outsider, I have learned there are several moments when it is best to just shut up. For example, if you wade into an Alamo discussion and start talking about who possibly disobeyed orders and if everyone really should have died, you’re going to get yelled at. (Please yell at Susie – this is her website.) What I like about Texas is that, as a whole, it’s a land of contrasts. You can go from large cities to beautiful hill country to mountains to desert to lakes and everything in between. You find global businessmen alongside ranchers in ten gallon hats, first generation immigrants eager to start a new life and suburban moms … all standing in sometimes nervous proximity of each other.

While there’s a popular narrative for what Texas is, the best part about it is the narrative never quite fits everyone. That’s why I enjoyed the opportunity to look at two different takes on what Texas whiskey is from two different distilleries – Devils River Whiskey and Swift Single Malt Texas Whiskey.

As an outsider, the Mainstream Texas Nationalism can sometimes overshadow some of the really cool things about our state – like amazing nature areas – including the Devil’s River (94 miles of mostly unspoiled and pure, limestone-filtered water right here in the southern portion of the state). If you like history lessons and whiskey, Devils River Whiskey combines both as they’ve built their brand around the river John Coffee Hays named back in 1840. The bottle features river shots, Texas, and just about every other possible reminder that this whiskey came from the Devil’s River.

On the other end of the spectrum, Swift Single Malt Texas Whiskey is made in Dripping Springs, TX with a brand focused on being a well-made craft whiskey with global appeal. If you’re a sucker for cool stories about people chasing their dream like I am, this blog post is a great place to learn more about Swift.

Now that my four paragraph commentary is out of the way, it’s time for opinion sharing. I poured each of these neat to start and had a couple of different guest reviewers try them both that way, with a bit of water, and then on ice. We started with the Swift and the first thing we noticed was there was a lot going on in each sip. The bottle tells you are getting notes of toasted vanilla and chocolate laced with hints of rose and white peaches. It’s a smooth, sweet sip with none of these flavors overpowering the others, but it was very different from what we were expecting.

For the Devils River, all the talk of bold flavors is implied by the bottle, the implication you’re one sip away from the forbidden river journey you didn’t even know you’d been dreaming of taking. There is a pepper and oak taste to it, but it’s also easy to sip and eventually falls into familiar notes of caramel and honey. The tasting group agreed that this was the better of the two whiskeys to drink straight.

We moved to a simple cocktail portion for the whiskeys and made manhattans, old fashioneds and a few custom recipes shared by the folks at Swift for us to try that were a little more off the beaten path. Both whiskeys made good cocktails, but the complexity of the Swift definitely stood out in the mixology phase of the review.

The two cocktail recommendations from Swift were simple to make and are worth making next time you pick up a bottle.

Wallace Mountain
1 oz Swift Single Malt Whiskey
1 oz Aperol
1 oz Averna Amaro

Pour ingredients into a mixing glass, ice, stir and pour in to a big rocks glass or highball.

Barley and Limestone
0.75 oz Swift Single Malt whiskey
0.75 oz Dolin sweet vermouth
0.75 oz Cherry Heering
0.75 oz Meyer Lemon juice*

Pour ingredients into a shaker, ice, shake and strain in to a martini glass. Garnish with an orange twist.


Swift Single Malt
Nose: overall sweet with lemon and floral
Flavor: sweet and citrusy
Finish: long and dry – changes as it lingers with pepper as well
Aged: minimum 15 months
Proof:  (43% ABV)
Price: ~$55/750mL

Devils River Whiskey
Nose: sweet with hint of pepper
Flavor: honey and caramel with oak and a small amount of spice
Finish: warm, smooth and medium length
Aged: n/a + years
Proof:  (45% ABV)
Price: ~$29.99/750mL

Buda Juice Cleanse

Being a food, drink and travel blogger, I often eat and drink … a lot. And a lot of it isn’t healthy. (“Yes, I’ll try all four desserts. Thanks much.”) That said, after returning from a two week tour of England and Ireland, I needed some extra help righting myself after all of the fish & chips and Indian food before heading to Kauai for a week.

Enter: Buda Juice’s cleanse

Since a lot of the foods we eat “contain additives made from petroleum products, pesticides, and other toxins”, sometimes it’s nice to flush your system and get rid of all of that ick. Their cleanse helps to do just that. Other pluses? It can help you lose weight, boost your energy level, brighten your skin, think clearer, sleep better, improve your immunity, and even increase your … ya know … desires. (Bingo.)

Buda Juice’s products are all certified organic, cold-pressed at 35º, pesticide-free, and not pasteurized, so they all bare an exacting expiration date that should be respected. They bottle everything in glass bottles to avoid potentially harmful plastics, and you can return the bottles for a $1 credit per bottle.

I chose to do a three-day cleanse to give myself a couple days to sweat it out at Camp Gladiator before starting my juice-only diet. (You’re not meant to work out while doing the cleanse, so I just walked for the three days.) Each day was the same six juices, and each flavor was unique and purposeful.

– Breakfast: No 01 Green Juice (spinach, cucumber, celery, apple, lemon, ginger, kale, parsley) – this was a great way to start the day and gave me a little boost of energy
daily veggies + vitamins, detox + alkalizing agent, gut soother
– Mid-morning: No 04 Blue Lemonade (apple, cucumber, lemon) – this was my favorite of the juices, which is great because I got to drink it twice a day!
post workout electrolytes, alkalizing energy elixir, hangover cure
– Lunch: No 02 Red Juice (celery, apple, beet, ginger, parsley) – a filling option as a lunch substitute and it happens to be an absolutely gorgeous color
stamina booster, stress reliever, blood purifier
– Mid-afternoon: another Blue Lemonade
– Dinner: No S1 Basilato Soup (tomato, cucumber, sea salt, basil, olive oil) – This was a treat every day of the cleanse. I warmed mine and added a bit of pepper a couple of the nights. (And it was nice to have something to chew!)
healthy heart lover, kidney flusher, detox + digestive aid
– Dessert: No M1 Almond Milk (water, almond, vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom) – sweet and definitely as good a nightcap as you can get without adding booze …this was a real treat each evening. I added a bit of cinnamon to mine.
healthy cholesterol support, balanced vegan protein, smart hunger quencher

All in all, I felt refreshed and a bit lighter (both physically and spiritually) after three days of (albeit delicious) juices. But I was ready to eat all the pineapple, mai tais and fish Kauai had to offer … not because I was hungry (the juices give you enough calories for a healthy daily intake and I never heard a grumble from my stomach), but because I just wanted to chew something!

BUDA JUICE
budajuice.com
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
MULTIPLE LOCATIONS

1 day cleanse: $65 (6 juices, 16oz each)
3 days cleanse: $195 (18 juices, 16oz each)
5 days cleanse: $325 (30 juices, 16oz each)

Pictures courtesy of Buda Juice

They do warn you that, as with any detox, there are some potential side effects. While ridding your body of toxins, you could “experience headaches, dizziness, fatigue, skin blemishes, constipation, as well as other digestive issues. All should be temporary …”

TX Bourbon by Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co.

Back in January, Amanda gave us the good news that Fort Worth’s own whiskey distillery, Firestone & Robertson, debuted a bourbon to accompany its sweet blended whiskey. More recently, we were delighted to be invited to taste the new expression with the distillers and proprietors, Leonard Firestone and Troy Robertson, at the distillery. The partnership was unexpected–both were separately making plans to open a whiskey distillery in Cowtown when they got wind of the others’ plans. F&R was born and has flourished–much to the surprise of the owners, but no surprise to the consumers who love their original blended whiskey.

Firestone, Robertson and head distiller, Rob Arnold, set out to create a new, unique expression with a providence that can be appreciated using local ingredients (corn and wheat from Hillsboro and a yeast derived from a Pecan tree on a friend’s ranch in Glen Rose), and of course, they decided it had to be a bourbon because it’s “America’s spirit”. And the product … is good.

The spirit is surprisingly smooth with notes of dried fruit and a warm, long finish. The approachable yet deep flavors make this a unique intoxicant. It’s no surprise that it has been in such high demand.

Nose: oak, honey
Flavor: vanilla, honey
Finish: smooth, short
Aged: 4+ years
Proof: 82 (41% ABV)

While bottles of the TX Straight Bourbon have been a beast to get your hands on, they’ve recently released additional inventory to liquor stores. If you aren’t a fan or hunting for bottles, stop into the distillery where you can buy one bottle each month. (And yes, they keep track.)


The distillery itself is quaint, yet puts out a hell of a lot of product. (And they have to in order to keep up with demand.) One of my favorite things, beside the liquid itself, is the corks. Each one has a piece of cloth, leather, fur, etc., making each bottle unique. F&R works with local bootmakers to source the leather, and they’ll even work with you to create completely custom bottles using materials you bring them … but you have to ask nicely.

Keep an ear out for news on their new distillery, set to open late summer 2017. Expect a shiny, new distillery, aging warehouse, offices, an event space … and maybe even a driving range. My team is stoked to take a trip to the 109-acre facility once it’s complete.

Firestone and Robertson Distilling Co.
frdistilling.com
Instagram | Facebook
901 W. Vickery Boulevard (Fort Worth)

They offer distillery tours on select Saturdays.

Ancho Reyes Verde

Who couldn’t use an extra spice in their life … or at least in their cocktail? In Texas, it is completely acceptable to add salsa or peppers to most any dish, so why shouldn’t we do the same to our cocktails?

I recently had the privilege to try a liqueur made from poblano peppers, Ancho Reyes Verde, that just became available in Texas. For those of you who are already a fan of the original Ancho Reyes, this is its new, “fresher” counterpart.

Ancho Reyes Verde is made from the same poblano chile as the Ancho Reyes, but the peppers used are green chiles harvested a bit early, then roasted. The original uses the late-harvest, sun-dried peppers . The heat that comes from Ancho Reyes Verde seriously tastes like a freshly picked poblano pepper–it even smells fresh and earthy.  Surprisingly, the liqueur has notes of ginger along with fruits like pineapple and a slight tomato flavor.

Both Original and Verde Ancho Reyes liqueurs are quite versatile, which makes it a perfect element for cocktails. Original mixes well with brown spirits, whereas the Ancho Reyes Verde seems to mix better with clear spirits. I personally loved the Verde in a cocktail, but the flavors when sipped alone were quite pronounced.

Ancho Verde Margarita
1 part Milagro Silver Tequila
1 part Ancho Reyes Verde
1 part fresh lime juice
⅓ part agave nectar

Add all ingredients to a shaker, add ice, shake hard and strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass with half its rim salted. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Verde Chelada
1.5 part Ancho Verde
0.5 part lime juice
Big pinch of salt
12 oz Mexican lager beer
Salt for rim

Rim a cold beer glass with kosher salt. Add salt, lime, ancho verde to the cold beer glass and stir to mix. Add ice and beer. Garnish with a lime wheel.

 


Ancho Reyes Verde Poblano Liqueur
AnchoReyes.com
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

80 Proof/40% ABV
Retail price: ~$33/750mL

Ancho Reyes Verde was launched in New York in 2016 as a limited edition spirit, and it is now available in the lucky states of Texas, California, Arizona, Illinois, Colorado, and Florida.

(Recipes and select cocktail images above provided by Ancho Reyes)

Driving, Not Drinking: Lexus GS200t

Yes, this is a booze blog.  I hear you loud and clear … something seems a little weird here.  BUT, I am known to DD from time to time and [GASP] … not drink.  That said, I enjoy a nice drive every once in a while, and I was lucky enough to get a schmancy, brand new, fast as hell Lexus GS200t for my travels to the San Antonio Cocktail Conference last month.  I’ll just say this: thanks to the car (and, sure, the company) I really enjoyed the drive.

This beauty got us there quickly (thank you, tollway around Austin!) and with an surprisingly small amount of gas.  From Dallas we were able to drive to San Antonio and a quarter of the way back on one tank.  The handling was also second to none, which is helpful since its acceleration is also impressive thanks to the 241 horsepower in the engine that got us up and moving to 60mph in just 7 seconds.  (Ok, we didn’t test that feature … but we were tempted.)

So we’re checking boxes: fast, fuel efficient, handles like a dram dream … but this baby is more than just performance.  The inside of the car is more like a cockpit than a car thanks to the seemingly endless features, and was much more spacious than expected.  The trunk alone could have fit nine, maybe ten cases of wine and my two yoga mats.  (Because that’s how I measure.)

The hardest part of the week with this car has been the time since they took it back … my neighbor that I park across from just got a brand new one–black exterior, black interior, just totally sexy.  And I have to see it every damn day when I back into my garage.  (Talk about torture.)

In general, especially for a low emission sedan, this car really raises the bar.

LEXUS GS200T
Five-passenger sport sedan
8-speed direct-shift automatic “Electronically Controlled Transmission with intelligence (ECT-i) and paddle shifters”
Rear wheel drive
143mph top speed
0-60mph in 7 seconds
17.4 gallon fuel tank capacity
22 city/32 highway MPG

Disclosure: My team was provided use of a Lexus GS200t free of charge. Opinions are all my own.

Product (P)Review: Cali Whiskey

Before it really took off, I remember how excited I used to get for winter offerings like Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale and Shiner Cheer. They weren’t the best beers in the world, but they were part of the season – basically the bro version of PSLs (that then mutated into basically an extension PSLs as the market became overrun with seasonal stuff, but that’s a whole other thing.) Now that everything is flavored for the holidays with the same dash of chemicals, finding something that stands out in this group is very hard.

In a seemingly unrelated note, when Susie offered me the chance to try CALI, a new whiskey from Sukkah Hill Spirits, I perked up. First, the idea of beach whiskey is just wonderful to me, but it’s also not like this is two surfers distilling in a bathtub. They turn out highly rated, award winning liqueurs and did not seem like the type to take branching into such a competitive area lightly. If you’d like to learn more about them, this November Q&A from Saloon Box is a great place to start.

The backstory also touched my heart – husband and wife make booze, wife loves whiskey, husband decides they need to make something delicious they can both sip together. It’s a tale as old as time…or something. So, on a nice January day, I opened my sample bottle, sat down on the patio (go Texas winter weather!), took a few sips then immediately picked up my phone and texted Susie a photo and a rambling explanation of how good this was.

The whiskey was very smooth and, despite not being intended as such, had a distinct holiday flavor – led by cinnamon and all spice, but not in that Fireball sense we’ve all become accustomed to tasting everywhere. There were also hints of baked apple, nutmeg and other spices – but again, I have to stress that none of it was too sweet or overpowering. The result was incredibly easy to drink and, while I was told the whiskey was perfect for a hot toddy, it was 70 degrees and I was enjoying it neat too much to consider anything else. This was the exact same feeling I got from those first sips of Celebration and Cheer – something unique to the season that was just fun to drink. It wasn’t officially a winter whiskey, but the spices and flavors line up well with the holiday season.

Right now, CALI whiskey is only being sent for reviews as they prepare to make the product available sometime this spring, but this is definitely a bottle to keep an eye out for as it becomes available.

Aged: less than 2 years (not an aged whiskey)
Proof: 85 
Nose: baked pumpkin bread, orange peel and baked apples
Flavor: nutmeg, allspice, molasses and dark bread
Price: $32-36 for 750mL

CALI WHISKEY
calidistillery.com
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram