Monday, May 20, 2013

A Couple of Easy San Francisco Memorial Day Punches

One thing I've noticed having traveled and lived around a bit, is that the beginning of summer is not celebrated by most people on the calendar date that declares it, but on a momentous occasion in that locale's culture. But no matter how many places I've been, what is ingrained in my mind, and that of many others, is that Memorial Day and Labor Day are the book ends of summer and must be celebrated by partying with your friends and family and enjoying the outdoors. This year, I've decided to do so with a little Elixir staff brunch party at my house followed by an afternoon in Dolores Park, overlooking this great city of ours and enjoying the beginning of "Summer party season".

Me in Dolores Park, 2010

To help you and your friends enjoy some great, easy to make beverages I'm going to post a few batched cocktail recipes. They are based on one 750ml bottle of the base spirit, and I'll tell you how many full size drinks that should make. You can do the math from there to change the batch for your size party. There are also lots of links should you need to find something or look further into some of the terms.



What you'll need:

  • a 1 gallon container for each batched cocktail you plan to make (preferably something that closes up) 
  • 1 measuring cup of some size (at least a cup but whatever size you have will do)
  • a sleeve of 16oz "red cups" (the traditional drinking vessel of outdoor parties)
  • a large cooler of ice

San Francisco Bay Breeze
A botanically-brightened version of a simple recipe that predates the current cocktail boom.
1 bottle of local gin (No. 209, St. George Botanivore or Anchor Junipero)
1 bottle of Square One Basil Organic Vodka
25oz of Cranberry juice
25oz of Pineapple Juice

DIRECTIONS: Pour all of these into your one gallon container and stir or shake to mix. Then just serve over ice (be sure to serve over ice to get the dilution and chill. If you add ice beforehand, it will melt and you'll have some dilution already in the drink when you pour it. This batch is 100oz and will leave some room for ice in a one gallon container (128oz),  if you want to add to it. For party purposes, I would just pour this over ice in a cup and let it dilute as you drink it. In a 16oz party cup this would be considered a double.)  

Pisco Punch
The cocktail that defined San Francisco before Prohibition and is on its way to a major comeback.
This drink can be made lots of ways. The most authentic may be a bit more difficult as you'll have to procure a bottle of Small Hand Foods Pineapple Gum syrup, which many local stores do carry now (click the link to see where). It is definitely more tasty that way, in my opinion, but if you can't get a bottle of that, you can make the second version below. (This recipe might be easier to make a double batch, because the SMH Pineapple Gum comes in 17.5oz bottles, so you can balance that with 17.5or so ounces of lemon juice (about 12 lemons) and you'll have a boozy batch...which is what the Pisco Punch is supposed to be!)


  • Traditional Recipe (single batch)

1 bottle of Pisco (Campo de Encanto is a locally, created and owned brand, but Barsol, Porton, Oro, Machu Pisco and Kappa are all great choices - a Quebranta or Acholado is fine, but a little Italia blended in is great as well, lending some beautiful floral notes.)
9.5oz SMH Pineapple Gum Syrup
9.5oz lemon juice (6-7 lemons)

  • Quick and Easy Recipe (single batch)

1 bottle of pisco  
6.25oz pineapple juice
3oz simple syrup (mix 1.5oz of sugar with 1.5oz of warm/hot water until dissolved)
9.5oz lemon juice (6-7 lemons)

DIRECTIONS: same as above...put it all in a gallon pitcher. The double batch is going to give you 80oz in either recipe. stir or shake it up well, as you've got syrup and viscous liquids here. Then serve it over ice. Since one serving of this recipe is only 3.5oz before chill and dilution, putting it in a party cup over ice is going to be like a triple or quadruple, depending on how much ice you use. So be careful! As Thomas W. Knox said in 1872:

"The first glass satisfied me that San Francisco was, and is, a nice place to visit. The second glass was sufficient  and I felt I could face small-pox, all fevers known to the faculty, and the Asiatic cholera, combined, if need be."


Lastly, let's not forget that this is not a "Hallmark holiday" created just to sell more red cups. Memorial Day is about remember those members of the United States Armed Forces that died in service to our country. We are talking about brave men and women who are not here with us to party in the park, but who laid down their lives so that we can enjoy this weekend and every other weekend, in peace. Raise a glass to them and be thankful. I know I will.

Happy Memorial Day! And if you see us in the park, come say hi!



Thursday, May 9, 2013

Tequila For Mother's Day

Your Mom showed you a lot of things, right? She let you go to music classes, learn to ski, join a dance troupe, try out for the basketball team, taught you to cook, and may have even introduced you to Scotch whisky (maybe that was just my Mom). Point is, Mom was always about helping you discover the things you might be interested in that would become part of your arsenal of skills, interests, hobbies, or even your career. So why not introduce your mom to something new this year when you take her our for Mother's Day? This year, teach your mom to enjoy tequila, and bring her by Elixir for some of the finer stuff, including our newly launched Rare Tequila Collection.

I started enjoying good tequila in 1992 while managing a bar and restaurant in Washington DC called Roxanne. On that beautiful rooftop, I would sip El Tesoro all night long with a Pacifico back. These were two products that were new to me and I was in love with them. El Tesoro, produced at the La Altena Distillery in Arandas, Mexico by Carlos Camarena, had only been available in the US since 1989 and was a complete eye opener to me. It changed the way I drank. It changed the way I thought about spirits. And 21 years later, it is still one of my favorite spirits in the world; the benchmark for great tequila. 


But in that time Carlos and his family distillery have produced some other brands that were launched in the US and I am equally a fan of those. Most recently, Marko Karakasevic, of Charbay fame,  has imported the Tapatio brand and even launched a 110 proof version (which is insane and so welcome - bring in more high proof tequila!). But a very cool project of Marko's that launched this recent collaboration was when Marko and his dad Miles produced their own blanco tequila with Carlos and launched Charbay Blanco. I was a there in the La Altena distillery with Julio Bermejo, Enrico Caruso, Nick Strangeway, Naren Young, Aisha Sharp, Duschan Zaric, Gregor DeGruyther (RIP), and a couple dozen other amazing people when Miles was with us, looking at the tanks and the agave fields and I said to myself "What is he up to? I bet he's going to make a tequila!" Sure enough they did and it is delicious and I have a couple of bottles of the very first batch!


Another great project out of that distillery is Tequila Ocho, created with Tomas Estes (whom I also met on that trip) and originally launched in Europe, then brought into the US by Lyons Brown, another great person this product has brought me to). The idea here is single vintage tequilas, all from one particular field of agave and harvested at just the right moment. Each bottling is of a field and a year and it is all stated on the bottle. A game changing brand that highlights terroir in tequila as well as vintage. I have the first bottling of the Anejo, which is now very hard to find.

There are some other greats on the list, like Herradura from before the use of diffusers; Los Abuelos, the original form of the delicious Fortaleza that Guillermo Sauza makes, before someone forced him to change the name; an INCREDIBLE and rare bottle of Chinaco Negro extra anejo; and some old Pueblo Viejo, again before a production change. 

So bring Mom into Elixir, teach her how to drink tequila, about the beautiful culture behind it, about the agriculture and tradition of the regions and about integrity in spirits. OR just order a few copitas and talk about whatever comes up! Happy Mother's Day, to my Mom, my daughter's Mom, and your Mom!