Thursday, July 18, 2013

Bits and Morsels- Hot Summer Spirits

Simon Galaviz, Brad Ball, Luke Correale, Ben Watts, Logan Lee, and Dale Slear at the WINE AWESOMENESS launch party.
by Erin Frankel

Summer has been HOT, too hot; hence a good time to unveil some of the sultriest new spirits and wines to have launched so far this summer. So, ditch the bored as Greta Garbo vodka soda in exchange for some artfully crafted cocktails. After all, the summer sun calls for refreshingly light and fruity flavors. And while we all know too much alcohol is never a good thing, there are cocktails out there that can be made with healthy ingredients to maximize your summer fun and please your palate, all while calibrating your calories.

Whether you're shaking up your own cocktails or you leave that to the experts, whether you're looking for a rejuvenating cocktail at the beach or something to take the edge off after work, I've rounded up the best new libations (and have included a doodad or two) to satisfy any drink enthusiast.

For the Oenophile: How about exclusive access to the coolest club to hit New York? Just last month, Wine Awesomeness held its NYC launch party on the rooftop at the James Hotel. And the four captivating Charleston natives behind the awesomeness that is wine embody each adjective of their company's tagline, "Wine is Bold, Wine is Sexy, Wine is DELICIOUS".
The scene at Jimmy at the James Hotel for the WINE AWESOMENESS launch.
Mayra Suarez and Kerry Morgan.
Jenne Lombardo and Zanna Roberts Rassi.
Vernen Flemming, Lydia Fimstad, Jenifer Sheng, Cali Cameron, and Jamie Lee.
Aside from the ability to purchase wines directly from the site, for a mere $40 a month, you can sign up for a CLUB AWESOMENESS membership, which includes a monthly delivery of three bottles of wine, recipe pairings, a music playlist, and "something cool." And this "something cool" changes each month (it once included a purple tooth cleaner to remove wine stains off your pretty white teeth!). This club is a great way to discover new regions, new grapes, and new producers from around the world, and in the process receive a pretty fun tutorial from the some of the most unpretentious, handsome gentlemen down south.

The Philip Stein Wine Wand, $185-$290.
For the Gadget Geek: Want to eke out even more flavor from your favorite red or white wines? The Philip Stein Wine Wand is a novel device that uses natural energy to thoroughly aerate wine instantaneously (well, almost). This wand is quite fancy, enclosed with glass jewels, and uses natural frequencies to do its job.

Just insert the magic wand into your choice bottle for a mere five minutes or a glass of wine for two minutes ... and presto, the Wine Wand releases the wine's natural aromas and flavors without altering the taste whatsoever.

For the Smoky Whiskey Devotee: Many a Whiskey fiend renounce their drink of choice when the weather warms. Little do they know about the many refreshing cocktail concoctions made with a new favorite aged Whiskey — WhistlePig Straight Rye.

Imported from Canada and hand-bottled in Vermont, WhistlePig Straight Rye is aged for a minimum of ten years in new American oak barrels and unlike many other rye-based whiskeys, is 100% Rye and 100 Proof. The inherent dry and spicy nature of rye vs. bourbon makes it ideal for a refreshing summer cocktail. And blending it with corn and barley cuts the inherent complexity and bitterness of rye.

WhistlePig 100-proof, straight rye whiskey.
You can stick with some old standbys like the old-fashioned, whiskey sour, old pal, sazerac, or mint julep. Or take a leap and try one of our favorite elixirs. You might ask just how do you make scotch a light and refreshing summer drink? Simple. Just add a little soothing lavender, some zesty lemon and orange flavors, and a dash of lipstick.

To be exact, WhistlePig's "Lipstick on a Pig" is made with 20 oz. of WhistlePig, 3/4 oz. of fresh lemon juice, 3/4 oz. of lavender infused simple syrup, 1-2 dashes of orange bitters, 2 dashes of Angostura (aromatic) bitters, and soda. This fizzy concoction will quench your thirst while also enhancing the complex flavor of the whiskey.

For the Adventurist: Skip the mojitos and margaritas this summer! Pisco, the South American spirit, is all the rage. If you want to arrive at the next BBQ with the newest, smoothest and arguably most sophisticated pisco to hit the US market, you'll need to bring along a beautiful bottle of Waqar Pisco and a few easy cocktail recipes to get the party started. Waqar Pisco is a premium Chilean pisco from the Camposano family, made using Muscat wine and distilled in small batches.

Pisco is the most common drink in Chile and has the appearance of wine in that it is made from grapes. However, the versatility of the liquor in cocktails is endless. You can choose to stick with the go-to pisco sour or why not try the Pisco Smash, by using the high-quality base of Waqar Pisco to retain the fresh, grapey flavor with an addition of muddled grapes and a dash of riesling. Ahh, such an invigorating cocktail on these seemingly endless hot summer days.
Pisco WAQAR,
Ya Mastiha, you can find it here.
For The Greek Groupie: Ya Mastiha Liqueur is a Greek liqueur made from the sap of the Mastic trees from the Greek Island of Chios. Seeded in the inherent beauty of the Greek Islands, Ya (short for Ya Mastiha) liqueur has become the fastest-growing spirit in Greece in less than five years. And it has entered the US market this summer with tenacity and spunk. The clear, silky sweet spirit is embedded with aromas of sugar snap pea, evergreen and pine sap.

For something fruity with a hint of sweet vanilla, try Nick Papanicolaou's (Ya Mastiha's founder) signature Very Berry VanillYA. Incorporating it into a cocktail (especially when blueberries are in abundance) is one of the best ways to use it. July is actually the peak season for blueberries! Registered dietitian, Jessica Katz, offered me a thorough explanation on how blueberries are a fantastic source of antioxidants: "Blueberries are an antioxidant powerhouse; they have one of the highest antioxidant profiles of all fruits, particularly containing anthocyanins and phenolics. In general, antioxidants help prevent oxidative damage inflicted by free radicals, thereby helping to stave off aging and disease processes like cancer, Alzheimer's, and heart disease. Blueberries may also help protect memory and urinary tract health, and are a source of dietary fiber as well as vitamins A and C.

Place 1 2/3 oz. Ya Mastiha Liqueur into a shaker with ice and add 2/3 oz. fresh organic blueberry juice, 1/3 oz. fresh lemon juice, 1/3 oz. of fresh vanilla syrup, and 3-4 mint leaves, which is believed to aid in digestion.

Shake and strain into a cocktail/collins glass filled with ice and top the cocktail with 1/5 oz. of prosecco or dry sparkling wine. Finish and garnish with two blueberries on top. And, voila you will have yourself a vitamin-induced cocktail reminiscent of the ethereal Greek Isles.
Ya Mastiha founder's Nick Papanicolaou's signature Very Berry VanillYA .
For The Sweet Tooth: Sometimes you need a bracing mid-week break or just a strong cocktail. Believe it or not, you can still get the kick you need without losing the summery, fruity flavors that you might be craving. And, if you're on a mission to discover emerging trends in the spirits space, then you should be ready to trade in the traditional triple-sec with Combier's new Pamplemousse Rose.

Combier, the Loire Valley producer of the acclaimed orange liqueur, has added the Pamplemousse Grapefruit Liqueur to their new lineup of fruit liqueurs. And the juicy pink grapefruit with a dollop of sweetness is just as ambrosial in your mouth as it sounds.

At 16% alcohol content, it's completely acceptable to drink straight from the bottle. But, if you want something different, try brothers (and proprietors) Curt & Scott Goldman's favorite summer recipe, LA PALOMA.

Add 2 oz. of tequila to 3/4 oz. of COMBIER PAMPLEMOUSSE ROSE with 1/2 oz. of fresh grapefruit juice, 1/3 oz. of fresh lime juice and a pinch of salt. Shake with ice and strain into a chilled collins glass. Finally, top with as much soda water as you like.

And, if you altogether decide on another cocktail of choice, I've had four of my top health experts provide their general mixology tips for staying hydrated and healthy!

According to Kristy Rao, Health and Wellness Advisor and Graduate of Institute of Integrative Nutrition, "wine spritzers are a great alternative, especially if you are drinking into the night because they have a lower alcohol content than most drinks. Also, not only are they a low-calorie alternative, but they will keep you hydrated! If you don't like the sound of wine spritzers, light beer is also a better option than most. Try to stay away from drinks with a lot of sugar. Not only are they high in calories, but they will leave you thinking you can handle more than you actually can.

"If you love drinks like Margaritas and Sangria, I highly recommend that you make them at home. Restaurants add a ton of sugar to them. A frozen margarita can easily end up being 500 calories alone! At home, you can sweeten your drinks to your liking with stevia or agave syrup instead of refined sugar.

Health and Wellness Advisor Kristy Rao.
"I also recommend freezing some blueberries and strawberries in ice-cube trays to serve with your favorite drinks if you're having a house party. You can throw these into your wine spritzers (white wine + club soda). Use half a cup club soda and one cup white wine. 

"A great drink to make would be a festive champagne cocktail. Fill a flute about 3/4 of the way with champagne, add some pomegranate juice for color and flavor and serve with some raspberries."

For more information about Kristy Rao, click here.

Vanessa Chu, Health & Wellness Consultant for BluePrint Cleanse and registered yoga instructor, says to stay away from anything too sweet or too processed. Instead, use mixers that are actually hydrating and water-based. Pass on the malibu and pineapple and instead, go for cucumber, soda water and vodka. Your head will thank you the next day! The best hangover cures are alkalizing so prep yourself with a green juice and raw coconut water for the next morning. Pre-stock the fridge ... you will thank yourself later. 

For more information about Vanessa Chu, you can visit her facebook page here or contact her at for more health tips and information about her outdoor yoga classes!
Health and Wellness Consultant Vanessa Chu.
Arielle Fierman, Certified Wellness Expert and jewelry designer, who studied at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, has this to say: "Add lemons to your drinks when you can! Lemons are incredibly refreshing and alkalizing, which wards off cancer, colds, and other illnesses! Add coconut water when you can — it is super hydrating and high in magnesium, which helps your organs recover. They are also naturally sweet! Some great summer flavors like pineapple and smashed berries are naturally sweet, seasonal and high in antioxidants, which will get rid of the toxins from the alcohol you consume the next day!"

Certified Wellness Expert Arielle Fierman.
Registered dietitian Jessica Katz.
For more information about Arielle Fierman, visit her website here.

Jessica Katz is a registered dietitian and completed the New York University Dietetic Internship, which required Medical Nutrition Therapy academic study and clinical rotations at New York University Langone Medical Center. She now has a private nutrition counseling practice on the Upper East side.

Jessica: "Pick club soda instead of tonic and add lots of ice to any cocktail you make. Add fresh lime or lemon juice for flavor. Choose muddled fruit instead of juice whenever possible. And ladies, try to limit yourself to 1 drink or less per day; gentlemen, less than 1-2 drinks per day ... we know, it's tough!!

"Light to moderate alcohol consumption does not raise blood pressure (and may lower blood pressure); however, excessive amounts (more than 2-3 drinks per day) can elevate blood pressure and increase risk of certain types of cancer.

"Start with a sparkle — a glass of sparkling (or flat) water should be your first order upon walking into a party. Match each cocktail with 1-2 glasses water. Have a (healthy) snack before going out!"

For more information about Jessica Katz, visit her website here.

This past weekend, I happily savored 40 of both East End and NYC chef's best summer dishes on the grill at the very first Blue Moon GrillHampton event presented by Pat LeFrieda and hosted by celebrity chef, Geoffrey Zakarian, where Hamptons chefs battled the grills against NYC chefs.

A competition style event, GrillHampton pitted eight East End chefs against eight NYC chefs in a grilling challenge with the GrillHampton "Master Chef" determined by a panel of celebrity judges which, included Food & Wine editor Kate Krader and restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow. Participating chefs included Chris Santos (Beauty & Essex), Joey Campanaro (The Little Owl), and Harold Moore (Commerce) representing NYC, and Billy Oliva (Delmonico's), Colin Ambrose (Estia's Little Kitchen), and Bryan Futerman (Foody's) representing the East End.  

And who won? The Judge's winner was Elizabeth Karmel, Hill Country BBQ (Team NYC) and Blue Moon People's Choice Winner went to David Hersh, Rumba and Cowfish restaurants (Team Hamptons). The Hamptons team ultimately beat the NYC team. Come on NYC! Let's step it up a notch!
Jeffrey Chodorow (restaurateur and GH judge), Karine Bakhoum (Iron Chef America Judge and GH judge), Geoffrey Zakarian (celebrity chef and GH host), Bruce Bronster (attorney at Windels Marx, GH judge), Pat LaFrieda (meat purveyor and event sponsor), and Dan Rattiner (found of Dan's Papers, GH judge).
Chris Santos and Geoffrey Zakarian.
GrillHampton Judges Choice Winner, team Hill Country.
Blue Moon People's Choice Winner David Hersh.