A Sweet Idea

My recipe for Root Beer Russian

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about an article I read in NY Times Magazine yesterday. Titled Sweet and Lowdown, author Rosie Shaap has figured out what to do with those drinks. You know, the Irish Creams, White Russians, or any of the cocktails I created last year for Hard Luck Candy Vodka (Root Beer Russian, anyone?).

You want to order them now and then (warning: this yen will grow come yuletide time!), but you feel guilty.

Too many calories, too much fat, you won’t have any idea how to continue if you finish the one. 

Ms. Schaap suggests that rather than deprive yourself of such dreamy delights, divide and conquer - turn them into a flight.

And voila! Your Kahlua and Cream, Godiva or espresso martini hankering turns from an embarrassing order into a sweet after-dinner sip for three. Just ask your bartender (they will probably love the idea themselves) or divide the recipe at home and serve in shot or mini snifter glasses.

Just make sure your enjoyment is long and liberal!

What Would Ingrid Bergman Drink?

"Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine."

Confession: I had never seen Casablanca up until a few weeks ago. Nor have I seen Gone with the Wind, so if you want to erase me from your address books now, I fully understand. It’s irresponsible, and I have no excuse.

However, as I aways say, “Every passing moment is a chance to turn it all around,” (thanks, Vanilla Sky!) and recently I watched the entirety of this gorgeous classic.

Centered around a bar called Rick’s, the characters are frequently accessorized with cocktails. 

A closer listen revealed one particular drink - the one Yvonne and her Nazi suitor enjoy, the French 75. The effervescent mood-elevator involves gin, lemon juice and champagne, and you can find the recipe here

My first French 75 was enjoyed at Del Posto, Mario Batali’s Meatpacking masterpiece. The bar there is an experience on its own. Please check it out and report back.

History of the French 75:

It was discovered by French air force pilot Raoul Lufbery who was part of Escadrille Américaine air fighting unit. Legend has it that he liked champagne, but wanted something with more of a kick to it, so he mixed it with cognac which was readily available. The combination was said to have such a kick that it felt like being shelled with the powerful French 75mm howitzer artillery piece, also called a “75 Cocktail”, or “Soixante Quinze” in French. The French 75 was popularized in America at the Stork Club.

Praise for the French 75:

For some reason, there is debate about whether this cocktail should be made with Cognac or gin. The first published recipe—gin-based—seems to have appeared in The Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930, but 20 years later David Embury wrote, in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, “Gin is sometimes used in place of cognac in this drink, but then, of course, it no longer should be called French.” Embury ignores Champagne’s French origins, not to mention the 75-millimeter cannon for which the drink was named. - July 1960 Issue of Gourmet Magazine

In the same family as the various versions of champagne cocktail is the celebrated French 75, an elixir which, if it did not actually have its origin in the first of the German wars, at least came to the general attention of American drinkers at that time and was immediately enshrined in the pharmacopoeia of alcohol artistry in the United States upon the conclusion of hostilities in 1919. - Lucius Beebe, The Stork Club Bar Book

It’s unclear what makes the French 75 so powerful—maybe it’s the combination of liquors— but, whoo boy, do you feel it when you down one! - Jean Shepherd, raconteur and author

Hits with remarkable precision. - Harry Craddock, The Savoy Cocktail Book



7 Things I Think Are The Bee’s Knees This Week

Today I was sitting in my last UCLA writing course for the summer and thinking of ways to fuel my momentum.

I remembered a book I read a few months ago, called “How to Be An Adult.” There’s a quote I’ve never forgotten:

"The Fertile Void is the existential metaphor for giving up the familiar supports of the present and trusting the momentum of life to produce new opportunities and vistas.  The acrobat who swings from one trapeze to the next knows just when he must let go.  He gauges his release exquisitely and for a moment he has nothing going for him but his momentum.  Our hearts follow his arc and we love him for risking the unsupported moment. 

-Erving and Miriam Polster, Gestalt Therapy Integrated

I was brainstorming ways to swing to my own next trapeze when I had the idea to start a Thursday tradition. Based on things I loved during my week, intended to inspire you too, I will now start sharing lists of things I think are the Bee’s Knees.

Of course, since it also references one of my favorite cocktails (order one at the Soho House - the best!), I had to include the recipe for you to make at home.

My inner middle school student is cueing Mariah Carey: “Honey got me hooked on…”

Glassware. The gift-wrapping of beverages. Why let a spirit make the leap from a beautiful bottle like Louis XIII or Gran Centenario into just anything? Take a nod from Tiffany’s and dress up your bar with signature glasses. Above are several amazing sets I discovered at the Melrose flea market this morning, with an introduction by a very beloved heirloom: a set of eight martini tumblers from my grandmother, a gift from my Aunt Beverly of Warwick, Rhode Island.

Two inspirations today: I’ve been reading the Happiness Project, a bestselling book from a normal girl (and former clerk for Sandra Day O’Connor) who questions what happiness means and how she can obtain more of it. In the chapter I read today, she talks about her fear of starting a blog and how, eventually, she came to love it. The more she loved it, the more love she put into it. And one day, she got a book deal. Hence, the book that was in my hands. She inspired me to put more love into the Swizzle.

So, after a few flips through Vanity Fair, I thought about how much I care for their aesthetic. Which led to a wandering on the web, and voila!

I discovered Letters Lubell, a lovely letterpress company from Brooklyn. Their pictured recipe card was the impetus for my re-creating the design of mine. Not only do I have a template now that’s so much easier to update, it’s much more pleasing to the eye.

I also emailed my wonderful web girl, Jen Adam, to see if she could make some tweaks to the overall functionality of my site. Fingers crossed, I will soon have commenting and archiving abilities!



Lady in Pink

Me, with Pink Lady, at Cecconi’s (one of my top 5 all-time favorite Hollywood restaurants) last night. Apropos, I wore my new pink lipstick: “Hibiscus” by Chantecaille, a gift from my dear friend Phillip. 

According to this missive from the Wall Street Journal, actress Jayne Mansfield was an ample aficionado of this cocktail. She had one before each meal, and in her case, that was one well-done steak every day. No small wonder, Miz Mansfield lived in a Sunset Boulevard mansion coined the Pink Palace:

So, gadabouts. Ask for a Pink Lady next time you’re puzzled on what to drink. It’s tart and frothy and Cecconi’s garnishes theirs with a gala apple slice, marinated in lemon juice. 

"A woman should be pink and cuddly for a man," Jayne Mansfield once said. To that, I say, "A cocktail should be pink and cuddly for a woman."

Pink Lady

1½ oz gin
¾ oz applejack (apple brandy)
½ oz fresh lemon juice
¼ to ½ oz grenadine (to taste)
1 egg white (fresh or pasteurized)

Shake with ice and strain into a stemmed cocktail glass.

Aperol Spritz: Bittersweet Symphony

It has recently come to my attention that summer has reached its dog days. Labor Day Weekend has now come and went… and frankly, it’s searingly hot. Rather than caterwaul its ado, may I suggest an elixir that would keep you as cool as the other side of the pillow?

Enter the Aperol Spritz, recently considered by my good friends over at the NY Times. My new friend Marissa, fellow writer and lover of quality food and beverage, and I, recently sung the cocktail’s praises, over a round, at Osteria Drago last week. The drink was then poured at the Four Seasons hotel pool with my NYC bestie Philip, followed up by another at our casa, another at Madeo (they make a fine one with a highball and crushed ice!) that night, and once more last night with a homemade club sandwich for dinner. 

Not at all diametrically opposed to the Camparis and Cynars of this world, Aperol is a slightly bitter Italian aperitif made with bitter orange, gentian, rhubarb and cinchona. It’s red in color, and has a gorgeous label, just like Campari, though its alcohol content is 11% - less than half of Campari. 

Born in Venice in 1920, local legend has it that Hapsberg soldiers would water down the strong local wine with a squirt (spritzen) of sparkling water.

Bitter spirits pair best with sweetness (think Campari and orange juice), and champagne is the ultimate match for Aperol. 

Without further ado, the recipe for an Aperol Spritz:

3 parts Prosecco (or any champagne, cava or sparkling wine)

2 parts Aperol

1 splash of soda or seltzer

Ice, half a slice of orange

Serve up or on the rocks. 

Fine places to order a Spritz: Cipriani restaurants, Brooklyn’s Clover Club and just about any Italian restaurant.

It’s also the perfect, easy, breezy treat for a guest just dropping by this time of year. 

Oh, and my new cocktail comrade stirred this one into the swizzle: apparently, there’s bourbon-spiked rendition they serve at Terroni in WeHo, a haunt we’ll surely be checking out soon. Stay tuned.

(An advertising experiment currently running in several European airports - awfully clever!)

NYC and Montauk, ‘12

I know, I am long overdue for an update. Many exciting things stalled me, which I will elaborate on more later: As an opening salvo, it’s summer, and I’ve been taking cooking, novel writing and Spanish classes, as well as traveling. 

Which brings us to my recent trip to NYC. My best friend Briana recently moved into a new apartment in the West Village and wanted me to breeze into town. We’d rent a car and blaze down the LIE straight to Montauk, making pit stops only for Moon Pies in Moriches and rosé-soaked lunches on the patio at Pierre’s in Bridgehampton.

Not only did I just finish the Great Gatsby, I couldn’t have been more in the mood for this trip.

I arrived in NYC late on a Thursday, wherein Briana and I checked out Richard Sandoval’s new Peruvian restaurant called Raymi’s (43 W. 24th St. and Broadway).

Here’s the Brigitte Bardot-esque beauty sipping a classic Pisco Sour (which was divine):

Side note: How amazing is her dress? It’s by Eva Franco

I enjoyed the namesake cocktail, with Pisco Porton, aji amarillo, mango passion fruit, lime and pisco sour foam (circumventing the notion of egg white froth for those who’re afraid their drink would fare better on a slice of 9-grain, are we?)

Oh! And, they have a gooseberry pisco sour. I would return to NYC just for that… love the pie!

The next night, we met up at our friend Phillip at Acme, a restaurant I’ve been dying to try (NY Mag taunts me with mentions of this place every month it seems).

Don’t let the facade fool you: The formerly Cajun dump on Great Jones kept the banner, but inside it’s serious New Nordic restaurant from Danish chef Mads Refslund. We were surprised to see our friend Jon Niedich pop in – formerly a manager of the Boom Boom Room – he is now a partner here. 

Interjection: Who needs a doorknob when you have these guys?

Moving on, I arrived early, enjoying an Uptown Affair: Vodka, green apple and celery juice, cinnamon nutmeg syrup and dandelion (highly recommended):

Phillip had been raving about the new Nomad Hotel, new from the developer of the Ace, so we cabbed it here for a nightcap.

Leo Robitschek developed the menu at the opulent, 24-foot-long mahogany bar here. We all had a round of the Paris is Burning: London Dry Gin, mezcal, St. Germain, pineapple, lemon and angostura bitters (mezcal and pineapple together are my kryptonite):

Paris burned so bright, we ended up heading over to the Boom Boom Room for Nightcap II. Here, I reunited with the illustrious George Carney, upstanding fellow and creator of marvelous affairs in coupe glasses (like the one pictured below). Mr. Carney explained that he was developing a special cocktail for Cointreau and this was from his test kitchen. I loved it, as evidenced here:

After enjoying a view from the Standard rooftop, I ventured back to the golden palace in the sky to say goodbye to its angels and sky captains.

Early to sleep, early to Montauk the next morning!

Briana and I rented a Prius and hit the 495. And here’s what we encountered upon arrival to Navy Beach

They were having a 50’s Beach Party! As Briana commented, “You’re perpetually equipped for this,” and lo and behold, this was no exception:

That cocktail is the Navy Grog (dark & light rum, grapefruit, orange, pineapple). It’s always been my favorite at NB. 

We brought plenty of reading material, lazed the afternoon away, had a quick bite and were off to an open-window, salty-air slumber. 

The plan for the next day can be best summed up here: 

Yes, ma’am, we spent the entire day and night at Surf Lodge with the cool kids at GrandLife. Lots of Talking Heads on rotation, lots of rosé for quaffing, lots of fun was had by all. 

The next day, we took a tour of the newest hotel on the block. Formerly the Ronjo (a tiki-themed, 1960s affair with huge totem out front to boot), the fully-remodeled Montauk Beach House has its own private membership program and has already hosted the likes of Paul Oakenfold and Paul Sevigny.

Note that cute waitress uniform on the right, and all the girls who work here are gorgeous! 

We didn’t have much time to luxuriate here, however we will return! And speaking of returning, we were due to bring the Prius back to the city. 

And I was due at the airport shortly thereafter.

Thank you, Briana, Phillip and many others, who made my mini-comeback so spectacular!

See you again soon.

Especially for those of you I met this evening, (Klue: not Kim, Khloe or Kourtney Kardashian), here is the recipe for the delectable summer cooler, the Kappa Krush. 

Especially for those of you I met this evening, (Klue: not Kim, Khloe or Kourtney Kardashian), here is the recipe for the delectable summer cooler, the Kappa Krush. 

Spotlight on Old Imperial Bar, Tokyo, Japan

"That lamp is Frank Lloyd Wrong."

-Briana Stanley, best friend and Design Director for the Soho and Tribeca Grand Hotels, 2011

Now, let’s shed some light on a place that went very, very Wright: The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Imperial Hotel in the Ginza district of Tokyo. Modeled in the Maya Revival Style of architecture, the pyramid-like space also loosely copies Maya motifs in decor.

The hotel’s Old Imperial Bar on the second floor has iconic status too, and this is where my boyfriend and I stopped by for a drink before dining at the 3-Michelin-starred Sushi Mizutani. 

Here is the view as overlooking the lobby:

Upon arrival to the bar, you will be greeted by this poster:

Hexagons in no short supply:

Frequenters of this institution resemble institutions themselves:

A cavernous cutout to display the riches:

Now, you might be wondering why these photos are so dimly-lit. Well, the answer is not for the dim-witted! As my boyfriend put it best, “The customers are not the show here. The cocktails are.” ‘Tis true, each seat put you front row to your own private stage, where the cocktails truly are the stars.

I ordered the Imperial 70. Sort of like a distant cousin to the French 75 or Sidecar, it contains dry gin, Cointreau, lemon juice, angostura bitters with a sugar rim. 

My boyfriend ordered the Mount Fuji, the bar’s own 1924 creation: Dry gin, lemon juice, pineapple juice, egg white, and maraschino cherry. 

All in all, Briana would surely say that the lamps here get everything right, right, right.

The Calm Before the Swarm

Arriving an hour early to style my table, it was one of those nights reminiscient of my days at the Boom Boom Room, wherein you actually felt the electricity tingle and the magic build.

Just a few feet away from where I distributed the champagne coupes, arrived the Step and Repeat (for newbies of this nomenclature, me at the top of this list, the Step and Repeat is the banner you always see at movie premieres that’s patterned with the logos of the sponsors). Then, the ubiquitous crimson carpet unfurled.

Most magic of all was the entrance of one Angie Freeman. If she never had one growing up in North Carolina, this was her debutante ball. 

Swathed in a stunning gown by Naven, she sashayed in with her signature wide smile and the room glowed amber upon her already golden skin.

Here she is, with her friend Jennifer Johnson:

And with Desi Lydic from MTV’s Awkward:

Soon, dolled up actresses in tiny cocktail frocks, the local Silverlake elite, designers and friends all circled like figurines in a carousel. 

And they were clasping my cocktails:

The recipes I served can be found here, and they were well-received!

Kappa is a new pisco I recently became privy to. It hails from Chile, not Peru, the latter of which has long claimed (and, for the most part, been accepted as) the true home of “real” Pisco. Ask my friend Jackie about them (she’s the California brand ambassador) and she’ll tell you a colorful story about the civil war and Chile vs. Peru’s claim of the invention of the Pisco Sour.

Beyond that, who doesn’t love nostalgic connotation? The sleek, midnight-blue bottle reminds me of the rocket pops I’d have from the ice cream truck as a kid, and the name reminds me of my college days as an Alpha Gamma Delta (Kappa Alpha Theta was our rival sorority). To us, they were simply the Kappas. (And the ones who constantly showed us up in grade point average!)

But for real, the sexy bottle was designed by Osha Tai, designer of Louis Vuitton bags and… the first aluminum Heineken bottle. And the name comes from the Southern Cross constellation in the beautiful Valley of Elqui, under which lies a distillery where the grapes are grown and made into this sweet and floral pisco.

I made two large batches of the white sangria, and I ran out within two hours! 

Which turned out to be okay, as I had plenty of supply of the Cham-pear cocktail.

A Champear step and repeat:

Angie “doing her thing”:

And there I was, in the middle of the hive of energy, the sweet spot, doing mine:

They say that chance favors the prepared.

So I must have been prepared the night I happened upon Bee Free Boutique and met Ms. Freeman. Within a day, I wrote her first piece of press for Haute Living Magazine.

They also say that the past is history, the future’s a mystery and the present is a gift. I’m thankful for the one I got, and wish Angie the best! 

All photography by Jo Alexander, josephalexanderphotography.com