Monthly Archives: June 2008

New York, Part 2: The W Hotel

The W HotelAfter scrapping with strangers over cabs outside Bryant Park (it was about to rain and most were off-duty) I made my way to Times Square to check out the W Hotel.


Attached to the hotel is a seafood restaurant with a small bar and lounge called Blue Fin. Their cocktail menu is limited but they have an extensive wine list, and their location is perfect for people-watching, with floor-to-ceiling glass windows that peer out into the heart of Times Square. I was only there for about a half hour, but there was plenty to take in (including miserable double-decker bus-riders donning ponchos and Adam Duritz from the Counting Crows…random).


Just upstairs, on the top floor of the W is a swanky, modern bar & lounge with a minimalist design. Like every other place in New York, I couldn’t get a seat at the bar (I’m no VIP), so I was forced to stand (in uncomfortable and non-sensible heels) to enjoy my “Peartini.” I thought Pear-flavored drinks were losing their popularity but there was at least one at every bar I visited. This one featured Pear-Flavored Vodka, Elderflower syrup, and Champagne, with a gorgeous fresh pear slice for a garnish (I wish I could show you a picture, but the bartender warned photos aren’t allowed). The drink was ok, but a little dry for my taste. Here’s how I would do it differently:


1.       Switch out the pear-flavored vodka for regular vodka and use a little less.

2.      Add some pear-flavored schnapps (like Hiram Walker) to get that fruity, crisp flavor.

3.      Use St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur instead of syrup (What can I say? I love the stuff!).

4.      Use a sweeter Champagne (like Cuvee M. from Mumm Napa).


These changes make for a more balanced, less harsh cocktail that’s still fruity and fresh!

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New York, Part One:

I like Martinis! Like…the real ones…well, kind of…


Earlier this week I took the train into Grand Central to get a taste of the Big Apple. Of course, I’ve been there many times before but this trip was all business—and luckily for me, that means trying out cocktails at trendy bars!


Located in the lovely Bryant Park, behind the New York Public Library, the Bryant Park Grill was my first stop of the day and featured a great outdoor dining patio and delicious food.


Since I was visiting New York on behalf of my client, Hiram Walker, I tried to get a sense of the latest drink trends, to see where the new flavors they introduced this week (Blueberry Passion and White Peach Schnapps) might fit into a cocktail menu. I was keeping my eye out for throw-back cocktails with a new twist, like HW’s reinvention of the “Fuzzy Navel”—the “Naked Navel” and “Pierced Navel” (with 100 proof vodka).


I’ve been trying to make it a habit to order whatever my bartender/server suggests to drink, or at the very least, something featured in a drink menu. But at my first destination, there was no cocktail menu, and my server only offered “We can make anything you want.” I froze. No throw-back cocktails with trendy new liqueurs, no cute, cleverly-named tiki drinks, and no intriguing veggie-based cocktails (stay tuned for more about all those). It’s been a long time since I had to think about drinking—the combination can be deadly.


My wonderful city-savvy hostess and lunch guest for the afternoon, Anu Rao interjected to suggest I try a dirty vodka martini. Gross! Or so I thought. I’d never tasted one and it had never occurred to me that I might enjoy it. Truth is, I loved it! If you’re in the city (and you like olives) go get one—they’re great. Anu (who seems to be something of a dirty-vodka-martini-aficionado) said it was one of the best she’d had.


The one thing I couldn’t help thinking about was the name—“Dirty Martini.” Isn’t that olive juice usually poured from the garnish dish, where fingers have been dipping all day? Hmm…dirty indeed…






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Na Zdrovia!

Eastern Europe and Russia may argue about where vodka truly originated, but at Table & Vine in West Springfield, Mass, I was very impressed by a few brands made right here in the good ol’ US of A.


Idaho held its own beside the big brands we all know from Russia and Poland with Zygo ( and 44° North Mountain Huckleberry ( Both products are distilled in Rigby, Idaho and both are delicious. I tried them straight at the tasting but am looking forward to doing a little experimentation with a couple of recipes I snagged (see below).


Zygo is an energy vodka (it contains Taurine, Yerba Mate, Guarana, and D-Ribose) with a unique combination of natural flavors. Peach seems to be most dominant upon first tasting, but Zygo leaves a subtle vanilla taste on your tongue. Other flavors in the mix include mandarin orange and juniper.


44° North Mountain Huckleberry is distilled from Idaho Burbank and Russet potatoes and stepped in huckleberries for ten days. The result is a sweet, smooth vodka that I imagine would be great mixed (again, see below).


In today’s vodka market, it’s hard for a product to stand out among the millions, but these two certainly caught my eye and perked up my taste buds. In addition to these relative newcomers, the oldies but goodies were in attendance including Stoli Blakberi, which I have a great recipe for. Give these a try and let me know what you think…


“Fother Mucker” (originated by John Libonati of Brite Bar, NYC)


2 ½ oz. Zygo Vodka

1 oz. Southern Comfort

Splash of Fresh Lime Juice

Splash of Cranberry Juice


Shake well and pour into a martini glass.

Squeeze a Lime wedge and drop it in.


“Huck & Cuke Caipiroska” (from their site)


2 oz. 44° North Mountain Huckleberry Vodka

3 Cucumber Slices

3 Slices of Lime


Muddle the Limes and Cucumber in a shaker

Add 44° North Mountain Huckleberry and Ice

Shake Well. Pour into a rocks glass, top with Soda, and garnish with a Cucumber Wheel.


“Blakberi Mambo” (from


3 ½ parts Stoli Blakberi Vodka

1 part Hiram Walker White Peach Schnapps

1 part Hiram Walker Mango Schnapps

2  parts Pineapple Juice

2 parts Apple Cider

½ part fresh lime juice


Shake ingredients over ice and strain into an old fashioned glass. Garnish with a pineapple.


“Sweet Clementine” (my recipe)


2 oz. Zygo Vodka

1 ½ oz. Hiram Walker Tangerine Schnapps

½ oz. Cranberry Juice

½ oz. Pineapple Juice


Combine ingredients in a shaker and shake well.

Pour into a rocks glass and garnish with an Orange Slice.

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Boston, Part Two:

Alibi MenuAlibi


At the foot of Boston’s charming Beacon Hill neighborhood stands a historical building with a modern twist. This 1851 granite-style structure, the former Charles Street Jail, was renovated last year to become the fabulous Liberty Hotel. It’s a gorgeous luxury hotel, but it’s stayed true to its historical roots. The prison-theme is found throughout, including in the hotel’s own nightlife hotspot Alibi.


I was told Alibi was the hottest new thing on the Boston nightlife scene, so I made my way over there after finishing up my Freedom Trail Cocktails. Let me tell you, this place makes an impression from the moment you walk in. It’s located in the old “drunk tank” of the jail and features brick cell walls and black iron bars. Inspired, no doubt, by America’s uncanny obsession with celebrity gossip, Alibi’s walls are decked-out with familiar celebrity mugshots. Each one features a cheeky “alibi” (my personal favorite is the his & hers combo of Hugh Grant and Divine Brown—check out their alibis for a good chuckle).


Ok, let’s talk drinks. This drink menu has got to be one of the most trendy and cutting-edge in Boston. At a smaller bar I visited earlier in the evening, the bartender had never even heard of Absinthe, St. Germain, or Cachaca, but the Alibi menu featured all. Kudos to them for keeping up with the latest style in cocktails, but I’ve got to say not all the drinks were to my liking. Their “Cash & Prizes” drink featured three ingredients I might have enjoyed separately, (rye, Absinthe, and apricot jam) but I really wasn’t crazy about them combined. I’ve got to be honest…the jam looked like squid-bits in the bottom of my glass. Luckily, I got the opportunity to wash that sip down with a delicious drink they call a “Cell Block Spritzer” (vodka, St. Germain, and lingonberry syrup topped with soda and served on the rocks). They (more-than) redeemed themselves with that one. It’s a new favorite. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

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