Complete your Cinco De Mayo celebrations with TEQUILA!

In early May, many of us partake in Cinco de Mayo celebrations, whether they’re at a friend’s home, a local restaurant, or bar. No celebration is complete with tequila, so here are a few fun facts and some new recipes inspired by my travels around California and Mexico.

Church of Santo Domingo de Guzman in Oaxaca, Mexico

A brief history of tequila

Tequila was first produced in the 16th century near the city of Tequila, which was not officially established until 1666. The Aztecs made a fermented beverage from the agave plant, prior to the arrival of the Spanish in 1521. In the 17th century, King Carlos IV of Spain granted the Cuervo family the first license to make and sell tequila. Tequila was first exported to the United States in the late 1800s.

Keep reading for more info about the different types of tequila and some of my favorite margarita recipes. Continue reading

Passover Wine: What a great obligation!

The Passover celebration is an opportunity to enjoy fine wine. There is an obligation to drink four cups of wine during the Passover Seder – another reason “why this night is different from all other nights!”

A few of our favorites this year include:
Passover Wine


Picking the right wine for your Passover Seder meal

Some people like to drink the traditional, ceremonial sweet kosher wine made from Concord grapes during the Seder. If that’s your preference, honor it. But if you are open to venturing beyond the traditional, Mollie Stone’s has a great selection of both Traditional and Modern Passover wines to pick from.

With the first two cups of wine at Seder, you eat matza and several symbolic foods placed on the Passover Seder Plate, including bitter herbs, haroset (a sweet paste of fruit and nuts), and vegetables dipped in salt water. An off-dry (slightly sweet) still and/or sparkling white wine would be ideal:

Chenin Blanc can be off-dry with fruit tastes of apples, pear, melons and apricots, and aromas of marzipan and straw flowers. Prosecco made with the Glera grape is a lightly sparkling low alcohol wine from Italy. It’s a sparkler which is always a bit celebratory, has the scent of flowers, delicate hints of honey, green apples and crabapples with some vegetal overtones. If it’s labeled Extra-Dry, it’s actually slightly sweet!

In between the second and third ceremonial cups of wine, a main meal is served. It traditionally starts with chicken soup and gefilte fish with horseradish. These pair best with a dry white still or sparkling wine:

Chenin Blanc also comes dry as a medium-high acid wine and has aromas of tart apple, pear, apricot and often with a creamy nutty nose and a honeyed finish. Sauvignon Blanc is a higher acid wine that has aromas of grapefruit, melon, pear and lemon, and sometimes with flavors of bell pepper and a steely finish.

The main course usually is roasted chicken, brisket of beef or roasted lamb along with potatoes, salads, and steamed or grilled vegetables. These pair best with several red wines:

Classic wine pairings with roasted chicken include Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. A Chardonnay would not only taste great but would go well with the celebration table, since white wine doesn’t stain as much as red if the kids spill a little. Chards have flavors of apples, pear, lemon/lime citrus, some tropical fruits, and often have oak aging influences of vanilla. Great Pinot Noirs have aromas of red fruits: cherry, raspberry with tea, earthy herbs, and oak aging adds smoke and sweet spice. It’s a very versatile wine.

If you serve Brisket of Beef or Roasted Lamb, classic wine pairings include Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which mostly have blackberry flavors; cassis, blueberry, some green herb, and coffee, chocolate and vanilla from oak aging.  Syrah (Shiraz), Petite Sirah and Zin often add to that, flavors of ripe blackberry, black pepper and herbal spices.

Want to learn more about kosher and Israeli wines? Keep reading. Continue reading

Keep your resolution with a skinny cocktail

This year, many of us have made resolutions to eat cleaner and reduce our sugar intake. This resolve is tested at Happy Hour so we came up with two lightened-up cocktails that offer the same satisfaction as traditional favorites, but without the excessive calories. Using fresh squeezed citrus juice adds a burst of flavor and sweetness without the use of refined sugar.

lime garnish

Makes 1 cocktail
175 calories

  • 1.5 oz Ketel One Oranje
  • 1 oz club soda
  • 1 oz cranberry juice
  • Juice of 1/4 lime
  • Lime wedge for garnish

Combine ingredients in a shaker or tall glass with 4-6 ice cubes. Stir, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Makes 1 cocktail
210 calories

  • 1.5 oz El Jimador Tequila
  • 1 oz Grand Marnier
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Lime wedge for garnish

Pour ingredients into a martini glass filled with ice. Let the ice melt for 5 minutes to blend the flavors together. Stir then garnish with a lime wedge.

Add a sparkle to your holiday celebration

There is nothing more festive than a flute of sparkling wine like Prosecco to get the feel-good festive tidings started! Here are a few more reasons we love Prosecco, and a few of our favorites this year:

wine bubblesIt tastes great. Prosecco is pale straw in color with beautiful bubbles. It has the scent of flowers, delicate hints of honey, green apples and crabapples with some vegetal overtones. It’s great as a stand-alone aperitif and typically has a bit less acidic finish than Champagne. Most great ristorantes in Italy serve it to stimulate the palate.

It pairs well. Sparkling wines pair beautifully with a wide range of foods as they have both the palate cleansing acidity and restrained but intriguing flavors which complement most foods without fighting to be the dominant one.

It’s lower in alcohol. Most popular white and certainly red wines have significantly higher alcohol levels than Prosecco. Extra alcohol can tire the palate during the second half of the bottle or dull your senses during a party.

Its upscale reputation. Prosecco is now a more well-respected wine. It’s made from the Glera grape but all bottles used to be labeled “Prosecco.” Now only higher quality ones can display that name. If you show-up with one of the highest quality ones, labeled “DOCG” and “Superiore,” even strict Champagne drinkers should sit-up and take notice.

It’s a great value. Although sparklers are often mistakenly referred to as “Champagne,” that famous “brand” has driven up its prices so Prosecco is often a better value.

Ready to try one? Here are a few recommendations from our sommelier.  Continue reading

Time for a Beer Cocktail

The beer cocktail trend sprang up in late 2013, with many restaurants adding them to their bar menus. Beer has become so much more sophisticated in recent years, with a large variety of flavors, types of hops, and styles, that it was bound to make its way into cocktails. If you like the flavor of stout but can’t finish an entire pint, try mixing with a liquor for an adventure in complex flavors.

We’ve searched through beer cocktail recommendations that our staff have made or drank, and have some interesting recipes to share with our customers.



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Embrace Fall with Maple Bourbon Cider

Who would have guessed that what started as Kentucky moonshine would lead to the “Bourbon Boom” of 2014? These days, it’s hard to find a bar that isn’t serving popular top shelf bourbon drinks to both men and women, but that wasn’t always the case. Bourbon used to be known as a “commodity” spirit, because of its bitterness and poor quality due to many distillers diluting and tampering with the recipe. The Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897 set strict standards, and distilleries around the country have transformed its reputation through innovation and taste.

Which brings us to the age-old question: what makes bourbon different from whiskey? We’ve outlined the facts below:

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The Evolution of Vermouth

Vermouth is commonly listed in popular cocktail recipes, but what exactly is this mystery ingredient? It is an aromatized fortified wine flavored with various botanicals such as: roots, barks, flowers, seeds, herbs and spices. Starting with a base of neutral low-alcohol grape wine, each manufacturer adds additional alcohol and a propriety mixture of dry botanicals. The vermouth is then sweetened with either cane sugar or caramelized sugar, depending on the style. The two prominent types of vermouth are the sweet, red “rosso” from Italy, and the dry, pale vermouth from France.

vintage bianco Continue reading

Blue Mountain Cider: From Branch to Bottle

Since the early revolutionary days of our country, Americans have loved hard cider. Founded in 2001, Blue Mountain Cider Company in Oregon has been continuing that tradition with their crisp, handcrafted ciders. Using only apples from their orchards in the renowned Walla Walla Valley in the Pacific Northwest, Ron Brown and his family personally select the finest apples to blend and ferment. They are one of the few American artisan cideries that add fresh juice and a dash of carbonation to enhance flavor.apples Continue reading