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Cocktail News - Nov 25, 2013

00:00 November 25, 2013
By: 2Fik

From cocktails to yoga. These days, fi nd Sharon Floyd (formerly of Iris and SoBou) in the New Orleans Healing Center, where she teaches yoga and offers Ayurveda treatments. She’ll also sell bitters and an aromatherapy line through Bartanica.

Wine tasting. Sommelier Sara Kavanaugh will host a sparkling wine tasting class on December 11 at 6 p.m. in the Grill Room at the Windsor Court Hotel. She’ll explain different scents and styles of sparkling wines, and how sparkling wine is different from Champagne. Call 522.1994 for reservations; tickets are $25 plus tax and gratuity.

One last ‘stache. “Movember” doesn’t offi cially end until December 2, with Capdeville’s Monday Night Football edition of the mustache movement that raises money for and awareness of men’s health issues. Watch the Saints beat the Seahawks, enjoy food and drink specials, and guys will compete for the Tom Selleck award (best in show), Paul Newman award (top fundraiser), Larry Bird (most invisible mustache), among others.

“Swingin’ at the Sonesta.” October’s promotion at Irvin Mayfield’s Playhouse – a salute to the swing era – showcased swing bands and fi ve classic drinks: the Sidecar, Manhattan and French 75, as well as the rum and pineapple-juiced Mary Pickford and the Bee’s Knees, made with gin, lemon juice and honey syrup. Head bartender Tiffany Soles will continue making them all year round.

The Bewitching Stregheria leads a new cocktail list at Maximo’s. Italian cocktails are having a moment, if you consider how many bartenders are playing with amari, vermouths and clean bitter spirits these days. Count Ian Parr, Maximo’s bar manager, in that number. After a summer of studying Italian wines (its regions, 200+ grape varieties), Ian launched his own list in October. About half the menu is devoted to Italian classics – here’s where you’ll find the Negroni, Americano and Aperol Spritz, as well as the more contemporary Mezzo e Mezzo, made with rhubarb amaro and sweet vermouth, topped with soda. It’s a dry, perfumed aperitif, and I found it more approachable than other bittered drinks. On the modern side of Ian’s list, you’ll fi nd a Cynar-spiked Pimm’s Cup and a julep that pairs bourbon and amaro, as well as two drinks he’s written: The Billiards Player, a sturdy Manhattan variation based on rich rye whiskey (here, 10-year WhistlePig) that gets chocolate bitterness from chicory liqueur, and herbal citrus from yellow Chartreuse. Ian named this drink for a Milanese folk hero who won the king’s daughter in a pool game - then had trouble collecting (ask Ian to tell you the story). Delicate and juicy, Stregheria translates to “witchcraft” – a reference to its alluring liqueurs, which include earthy, fennel-spiced Strega, and a grappa infused with the sour, minty Rue plant. Fortifi ed wine and lemon juice give it a lilting bite at the fi nish. The Stregheria pairs especially well with seafood; Executive Chef Justin Daw has a way with scallops, and his citrus-Romano polenta might be my favorite new side.

Pearl Wine Co. owned September…when they were the only bar in Louisiana able to sell a cocktail made with Cathead Pumpkin Spice Vodka. How’s that? The answer lies in owner Leora Pearl’s retail space next door, brimming with more than 1,300 bottles of wine, beer and spirits. Cathead only had 250 cases of the limited edition vodka to sell in Louisiana, and retailers got fi rst dibs. “Pearl Wine was a unique situation” because of their integrated retail-bar business, says Candace Rodriguez, Cathead Vodka’s Louisiana market manager. “They had the fi rst Pumpkin Spice cocktail in Louisiana.”

That would be The Upstate, written by Mary Dixie, Pearl Wine’s bar director. She starts with the elusive Pumpkin Spice, a corn-based vodka infused with organic ground pumpkin, Christmas spices, ginger root and bourbon-vanilla beans.

For The Upstate, Mary pairs it with her own robust Scottish red tea-honey simple syrup and allspice dram. This sipper showcases a delicious pumpkinspiced bite, with a hint of orange, and it’s more savory than sweet. Credit that drier profi le to the base spirit, as well as Mary’s pinch of salt, which brings “edge and punch to the drink, without too much acid,” she says.

Mary came to Pearl Wine Bar from a three-year stint at the Windsor Court; besides managing the bar here, she also owns a catering company that puts on five-course wine dinners (and Thursday night grilled cheese pop-ups) at Pearl Wine Co.

“I’m in an exceptional position, being able to pull from the retail side,” says Mary. “I’m able to create on a whim.”

(With its retail orders fi lled, Cathead Vodka has since opened up distribution of Pumpkin Spice to other bars in Louisiana. They’ve also launched a pecanfl avored vodka, which will remain available year-round.)

My standing date with the Pink Squirrel. So my friend Laura Bergerol and I have launched a book club for members of the Press Club of New Orleans. Every month, we meet at the American Sector and mull over a book that speaks to us as photographers and journalists.

And every month, it seems, I’ll be drinking a Pink Squirrel to fuel my end of the conversation.

Like other retro drinks on the American Sector list, the Pink Squirrel has its origins in the World War II era. The legend is that it was created at Bryant’s in Milwaukee, which became a cocktail lounge around 1938.

If you like ordering drinks with products you wouldn’t stock at home, then the Pink Squirrel is for you. It calls for equal parts chocolate liqueur and Crème de Noyaux, which is becoming increasingly harder to find.

Crème de Noyaux is traditionally made from stone fruits – brandy-steeped pits from peaches, apricots and cherries, which give the liqueur a bitter almond taste. You won’t fi nd many recipes that call for it (the rare, pre-Prohibition Old Etonian comes to mind) and besides, you get a very similar (some say richer) fl avor from amaretto. It’s no surprise that some brands that used to make Crème de Noyaux now offer amaretto instead.

What amaretto doesn’t give you, though, is the lipstick-red tint that’s essential to the Pink Squirrel. Bols, one of the remaining big brands to bottle Crème de Noyaux, stays true to this coloring. Together with the chocolate liqueur and a long splash of heavy cream, the Pink Squirrel comes out frothy and blushcolored, in a syrup-striped glass. Sweet? You bet. It’s an almond-cherry-chocolate shake, really, with a zip of alcohol; a monthly indulgence that I’ve come to associate with friends and a good book.

MiLa’s Southern-style drinks. Duck call. Bloodhound. Shotgun w edding punch. The cocktails on MiLa’s menu read like the local stories I covered in my fi rst newspaper gig, at a rural Southern Weekly deep in tobacco country.

Since joining MiLa, bartender Rachad Rad has worked with chefs Allison Vines-Rushing and Slade Rushing to match their beautiful, fresh Southern plates (among my favorite in the city) with worthy drinks.

While you’ll recognize the Mississippi Mule (gin, crème de cassis, lemon) and Redneck Girl (a French 75 variation based on tart, berry-infused gin), Rachad’s own specialty drinks lead the list.

Besides the evocative names, his cocktails are – appropriately – on the sweet side, featuring amaretto, sugared tea, fruity molasses and lots of bourbon.

Among them is the Hoochie Coochie, a name that suggests sex, sexy dancing, the blues and more sex. Like most good things, it’s a simple stir of Maker’s Mark, peach schnapps and ginger beer. The fl avor pairings have a long history in Southern drinks, and work here too: peachy bourbon sharpened with warm, spicy ginger. It’s pleasing, refreshing and took me back to my newsroom in eastern Carolina, covering stolen gators, deer hunters and divining rods.

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