Welcome to Imbibe Magazine's between-issues look at liquid culture with drink recipes, news and more. From coffee to cocktails, Imbibe celebrates your world in a glass.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Happy Nihonshu No Hi!

Say what? Friday is International Saké Day (aka Nihonshu No Hi), and we can’t think of a better way to celebrate than by sipping on a glass or two. Saké is often overshadowed by beer, wine or cocktails, but it’s crafted in a range of styles that truly offer something for everyone. In honor of Saké Day, the folks from the upcoming Sake Fest in Portland, Ore., are offering Imbibe readers a special discount on tickets. Today is the last day to secure the general advance ticket prices, but starting tomorrow, you can enter code IMBIBE at the checkout and secure the discounted price of $47.50 (the regular ticket price is $65). This is going be a terrific event, and you seriously won’t want to miss it—amazing sakés from around the world available for tasting along with some of Portland best chefs on hand to prepare incredible food pairings. So be sure to take advantage of the special Imbibe discount by heading here, and we’ll look forward to seeing you there on October 13.

In the meantime, if you want to brush up on your saké knowledge before the big event, here are a few quick tips to get you primed.

Variety is key. Sakés are typically categorized by the amount of rice that has been polished away, but to further complicate things, they can also range from dessert-y sweet to bone dry. Polish is denoted by style (i.e.: junmai, gingo and daiginjo), while sweetness is measured on the Saké Meter Value (or SMV) from +10 to -10, or very dry to very sweet, accordingly. If tasting with friends, try and have at least five different options on hand ranging in polish and sweetness, as well as at least one unfiltered (nigori) bottle.

Keep it glassy. Though traditionally sipped from a small ceramic cup, a stemmed white wine glass provides the ideal saké-drinking vessel since it helps highlight delicate aromas and flavors.

Stay cool. Only saké of low quality should be warm, so keep things cool and serve it just slightly warmer that fridge-temp. This helps enhance subtle nuances that are otherwise obliterated once heated.

Mind your manners. Saké etiquette says you shouldn’t pour your own glass, so be sure to keep your guests’ glasses full and enlist someone to do the same for you!

Mix it up. Saké can lend delicious nuances to cocktails. Let your own palate be your guide and mix with complementary flavors, or try it in drinks like the Kyoto Sour and the Plum Blossom.

Dig in. Saké has lively acidity and fruity characteristics that make it a great match to for variety of flavors, everything from sushi to spare ribs to sweets.

Relax! There’s nothing to be intimidated about when it comes to saké—enjoy it casually just like you do wine, beer or spirits and toast friends with a hearty kampai (it means “empty your cup”).

Get savvy. Check out Zen and the Art of Sake from our January/February 2009 issue and verse your friend on rice polishing, saké styles and koji.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Who We Gonna Call?

The vodka category is one of the most crowded spirits categories, so it can take a lot to stand out from the pack. With its skull-shaped bottle and actor Dan Aykroyd as its brand ambassador, Crystal Head does stand out, but not just for those reasons. It’s a crisp, smooth vodka with some interesting nuances, and yesterday, we had the chance to taste the spirit with Aykroyd, who stopped by the Imbibe office during a promotional tour across the U.S. and Canada.

Portland bartender Dave Shenaut also came over to mix some cocktails with Crystal Head, and Aykroyd was right at home, having bartended before his days on SNL. “Cocktails have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, so it’s been a lot of fun taking the vodka on the road,” he says. “Bars are the stars of the show now and we’ve met some really great people.”

First launched in 2008, the vodka is made from a blend of grains and water from Newfoundland, Canada with no additives. The result is a smooth spirit with a touch of creaminess and a hint of spice, and as Shenaut showed, it makes a solid base for a range of cocktails. Shenaut combined the vodka in six different cocktails using everything from crème de peche to Chartreuse to chamomile liqueur. But the favorite of the day was the Daisy Days, which combines Crystal Head with fresh strawberries, agave nectar, lime juice and a sparkling rosé.

While it’s become a trend to shun vodka in craft cocktails, vodka remains the spirit of choice for a lot of people, and many bartenders can creatively combine vodka with other ingredients to delicious results. The key is to start with a good vodka.

Aykroyd is continuing his tour with events down the West Coast. If you’re in Sacramento, he’ll doing a signing at Bevmo on Wednesday, and then he heads down to So Cal for events in San Diego and Van Nuys at the end of October. Check crystalheadvodka.com for times and locations, and in the meantime, try out the Daisy Days yourself.

The Daisy Days
2 fresh strawberries
Dash agave nectar
1 1/2 oz. Crystal Head vodka
1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
Brut rosé sparkling wine
Ice cubes
Tools: muddler, shaker, strainer
Glass: flute
Garnish: fresh strawberry slice

In the bottom of a shaker muddle strawberries with agave nectar. Add vodka, lime juice and ice cubes. Shake and strain into a flute, top with sparkling rosé.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Drink of the Week: Batdorf & Bronson Tanzania Kigoma

Add a little pep to your step with a press pot of today’s Drink of the Week: Batdorf & Bronson’s Tanzania Kigoma. This peaberry coffee from Western Tanzania’s Kanyovu co-op offers earthy, dark chocolate aromas, rich, red fruit flavors and a bright acidity. On top of that, Batdorf donates one dollar for every pound sold to Grounds for Health, a non-profit that establishes cervical cancer prevention programs in coffee-growing regions around the world. $15/1 lb., batdorfcoffee.com

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Toasting Oktoberfest

With Munich’s famed Oktoberfest in full swing and fall officially beginning, we’re eager to join the seasonal festivities with copper-colored Oktoberfest (aka märzen) beers. A German-style lager traditionally brewed in March and laid to rest in cool cellars until fall, Oktoberfest beers are malty, medium-bodied and an ideal match to the rich flavors of the season. Thankfully you don’t need to dig out your lederhosen or book a transatlantic flight to partake. Our September/October cover story on the 50 best seasonal beers highlights a few of our favorite Oktoberfest brews, and here’s a list of even more good bets.

Avery The Kaiser
Boulder, CO, 9.3% ABV
Every year, Avery makes one lone lager—and this big, malty Oktoberfest is it. Part of the brewery’s Dictator Series, The Kaiser sports a gorgeous copper hue with notes of caramel and a wallop of floral hops. It’s the perfect partner for rich soups and roasted chicken.

Ayinger Oktoberfest Märzen
Aying, Germany, 5.6% ABV
Märzens are known for their slightly sweet, malty character, and this classic from Bavarian brewer Ayinger doesn’t disappoint. Its rich color is matched by its full body, with a slightly drying finish that makes it a great match for fall fare like sausages and roasted meats.

Bear Republic Late Harvest Lager

Healdsburg, CA, 6.3% ABV
The traditionally hop-heavy brewery, Bear Republic balances out bready, caramel malts with a healthy dose of hops, adding a distinctively grassy undertone to their märzen-style beer. Released annually each fall, this heady brew is currently available on draught across the country.

Bell’s Octoberfest Beer
Galesburg, MI, 5.5% ABV
Fermented over a six-week period, this full-bodied brew combines roasted apple and pear flavors with warming caramel notes on the finish. Seek it out on nitro and be rewarded with a pillowy white head and a silky mouthfeel that you’ll want to curl up with all the way into winter.

Brauerei Spezial Rauchbier Märzen
Bamburg, Germany, 5.3% ABV
In a word: alluring. Sure, being a märzen-rauchbier hybrid makes it a bit of a stretch in the Oktoberfest category, but one taste and you’ll be smitten with this intriguingly smoky, malty brew. Crafted with organically grown, Franconian barley by the Spezial brewery, which was founded in 1536, this beer’s a perfect match for a Reuben—extra kraut, of course.

Brooklyn Oktoberfest
Brooklyn, N.Y., 5.5% ABV
True to its märzenbier style, this beer is brewed in late spring and allowed to rest before its fall release. Toasty malts and a hint of nutmeg spice are great paired with fall stews and end-of-the-summer grilled brats.

Odell Brewing Co. Woodcut No. 4 Oak-Aged Double Märzen-style Lager

Fort Collins, CO, 11% ABV
This limited-edition beer from Odell Brewing, though released this past May, tastes like it was made for fall. A slightly sweeter version of the more traditional märzen-style beers, it offers lingering notes of dried fruit, vanilla and spice and comes in at a whopping (and comfortably warming) 11 percent alcohol.

Paulaner Oktoberfest-Märzen
Munich, Germany, 6% ABV
More than a million pints of this beer are poured during Munich’s Oktoberfest, making it a palate pilgrimage for any true fan of the classic style. Pick up a bottle for balanced notes of sweet caramel, bread and a slight hop bitterness on the finish—this is one highly sessionable brew.

Sly Fox Oktoberfest

Phoenixville, PA, 5.8% ABV
Oktoberfest gets canny with this portable brew from craft-canning pioneers, Sly Fox. One sip and you’ll swoon for its smooth, creamy body, mildly floral flavors and brown sugary finish. Pair it with chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy.

Victory Festbier
Downingtown, PA, 5.6% ABV
As its name suggests, this is one celebratory beer. Comprised of nearly all-German ingredients, this brew offers sweet malt aromas, a layered mid-palate and a dry, nutty finish. And lucky for local fans who can keep the party going all year long, since the Festbier is on draught year-round in Victory’s Pennsylvania taproom.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September’s Where to Drink Now: Alabaster Coffee and Tea Company

Former Penn State music majors, Karl and Bethany Fisher have created coffee harmony at their recently opened Pennsylvania café, Alabaster. Single-origin and Cup of Excellence coffees from specialty roasters like Commonplace, Square One and Counter Culture share menu space with beans the Fishers roast in-house, all of which are available in espresso drinks as well as via pour-over, press pot and Chemex brewers. Their part-time pastry chef draws inspiration from the week’s rotating beans, artfully pairing individual coffee profiles with homemade cakes, cookies and other sweet treats. And coffee isn’t the only note this café plays, with more than two-dozen teas from SerendipiTea also on offer. Future plans call for installing a 5-kilo Diedrich roaster, which should arrive just in time to amp up in-house production by the New Year.

Coordinates: 410 Pine St., Williamsport, PA; 570-478-0043; alabastercoffee.com

Friday, September 17, 2010

Drink of the Week: New Belgium Hoptober

Germany's Oktoberfest starts this weekend, and here in the states, the Great American Beer Festival is already underway, which means we've got beer on our minds for today's Drink of the Week. In our new issue, our cover story brings you 50 of the best seasonal bottled beers, and New Belgium's Hobtober is one of our top picks for fall. With five types of hops and four malts, this floral, citrusy golden ale has a full body with a snappy bite, making it the perfect segue to cooler autumn weather. Pair it with some grilled brats and a football game, and you've got the perfect fall weekend.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

One More Reason We Love the French

Okay, France, we know you've got it good, but now you've really topped yourself. Looks like self-serve wine is heading to grocery stores across the country. Just bring your own bottle, pick your wine, fill 'er up and voila! Head over to Dr. Vino for the full scoop.

Whiskey Live, Coast to Coast

In a few weeks, whiskey enthusiasts on both sides of the U.S. will be able to get their whiskey fix with two upcoming Whiskey Live events. Starting things off on October 13 is Whiskey Live Los Angeles, taking place at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. There will be a wide range of whiskies on hand for tasting—everything from scotch to bourbon—and guests will be able to mingle with distillers from around the world. This year will also feature the Oban Experience, which is an opportunity to get immersed in all that is Oban and sample this world-class single malt from the west coast of Scotland. Standard advance tickets cost $99, which includes six sample vouchers, food and a tasting glass. Advance VIP tickets cost $129 and give you earlier access to the festival. For more details and to purchase tickets, head to whiskylive.com.

On the heals of Whiskey Live LA comes Whiskey Live Ft. Lauderdale, taking place at the Harbor Beach Resort and Spa. Take in amazing views of the ocean while you sample whiskies from around the world and learn about coopering, whisky blending, cocktails and more. Advance ticket prices are the same as the LA event, and to get more info and/or to buy tickets, head here.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Upcoming Event: The Gourmet Experience

Outdoor festivals in the fall are some of our favorites—the weather is ideal, and it's always a great time to taste food and drinks that you might want to stock up on over the winter for gift-giving and entertaining. Which is why we're especially excited about The Gourmet Experience event that's kicking off in a few weeks in San Diego. With more than 250 exhibitors showcasing and selling specialty culinary products, The Gourmet Experience is a veritable gourmet shopping experience. Held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds on October 9 and 10, this event is a great chance to taste an array of food, wine, spirits and beer; try out cooking tools and gadgets; watch chef demos; and get lots of great entertaining ideas. And since we're a sponsor, Imbibe readers can save $10 off admission to this year's event—just enter discount code IMBIBE10 when you purchase your tickets online. For more details on this year's event and to purchase tickets, head to thegourmetexpo.com.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Drink of the Week: Bodegas Terras Gauda Abadia de San Campio Albariño 2009

Known as the noble, seafood-loving white grape native to Northern Spain and parts of Portugal, Albariño can be a pricey white wine, but Rias Baixas producer, Bodegas Terras Gauda, bucks that trend with today’s Drink of the Week: Abadia de San Campio Albariño. Coming in at $18 a bottle, the fruit for this single-vineyard Albariño grows at a slightly cooler elevation with an extended ripening time that helps concentrate the lemony, tropical aromas and apricot, apple and pear flavors. And its within-miles proximity to the Atlantic adds just a touch of sea air on the finish. Try it with scallops, mussels or oysters. $18, skwines.com

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Gin Is the Word

Want to win a trip to New York City and get a VIP tour of the city's world-class cocktail scene, along with a $2000 gift card? Tanqueray is giving you the chance! Using a classic Gin & Tonic as your inspiration, all you need to do is create an original cocktail that puts a modern twist on the G&T, combining Tanqueray with tonic and whatever other inventive ingredients you choose to incorporate. Once you've perfected your recipe, you can enter it for consideration on Tanqueray's Facebook page, where Tanqueray fans are voting on their favorites to help pick a grand prize winner.

The grand prize winner will receive a trip for two to New York City for 4 days and 3 nights in May of 2011, including a VIP guided cocktail tour of New York by a Tanqueray Gin ambassador, round-trip first-class airfare, hotel accommodations, a $2,000 gift card, ground transportation and a set of four Tanqueray glasses.

Even if you're not the grand prize winner, there are some fantastic prizes for runners up. Two first-place runners up will receive a home bar, a set of 4 Tanqueray glasses and a $500 gift card. Three second-place runners up will receive an ice maker, four Tanqueray glasses and a $250 gift card. And four third-place runners up will receive a bar tool kit, four Tanqueray glasses and a $100 gift card.

The deadline for entries is September 30, and all recipes must be submitted through Tanqueray's Facebook page (click on the Contest tab when you get to the page). There, you can also find the official contest rules and guidelines and check out other recipes.

Good luck, imbibers—we can't wait to see who wins!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Saké Fest Heads to PDX

Oregon is already home to America's very own saké brewery, SakeOne, and now the state is debuting its very own saké festival with the kick-off of Saké Fest in Portland. Already a successful event in Philadelphia, Saké Fest is heading west on October 13 to celebrate the art of saké in one of America's most dynamic food and drink cities. We're so excited about this event coming to Portland—it's going to be a great chance to taste some of the world's best sakés under one roof, and to try them alonside food pairings from some of Portland's best restaurants, such as Ping, Biwa, Zilla, Yakuza and Park Kitchen.

Tickets are $47.50 per person and are discounted until September 30, after which they'll cost $65. The ticket price includes access to all saké and food—including rare and premium sakés—as well as a hand-blown tasting cup. So be sure to get your tickets while you can save on the discounted price, and check out the website for more details. We'll definitely be there and hope to see you there too!

What: Saké Fest PDX
When: Wednesday, October 13, 6–8:30 p.m.
Where: The Governor Hotel

Friday, September 03, 2010

Labor-Free Cocktails for Labor Day

It’s Labor Day weekend, so surely you’re kicking back and patting yourself on the back for being such dedicated, hard worker. Why not reward yourself even more with a cocktail—and a quick and easy one at that? In the spirit of relaxation, we’ve rounded up five easy-to-make drinks calling for no more than four ingredients (that you probably already have on hand). After all, less time laboring over cocktails for others means more time relaxing with your own well-deserved drink in hand.

Bee's Knees
Gin, honey and lemon juice combine to create a deliciously easy-going cocktail.

Hemingway Daiquiri
You can’t go wrong with Ernest Hemingway’s favorite combo of rum, lime, grapefruit and maraschino.

No. 9 Park Palmyra
Garden-fresh mint, lime and vodka is all you need to enjoy this summery cooler.

The Southern Cola
This simple sipper refreshes with a splash of amaro and a squeeze of lime.

Watermelon Cooler

Savor the remaining days of watermelon season with this crowd-pleasing cocktail.

Drink of the Week: Bourbon Peach Cobbler

Most serious bourbon enthusiasts dream about visiting the Kentucky Bourbon Trail at some point to see the heart of America's whiskey country firsthand. One of the best times of year to visit is in September, when the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival takes over Bardstown for six days of food events, historical tours, parties and bourbon tastings from an array of distillers, such as Buffalo Trace and Four Roses. With this year's festival kicking off on September 14, we couldn't help but make a bourbon cocktail our drink of the week, specifically the festival's Official Drink for 2010: a Bourbon Peach Cobbler, combining bourbon, Dubonnet, fresh peach and a little cinnamon and sugar.

If you're planning to attend the festival this year, be sure to try this tasty cocktail on site, and if you can't make it, mix one up at home with your own long-distance tribute to America's native spirit. And for more details on this year's festival, head here.

Bourbon Peach Cobbler
2 oz. bourbon
1/2 oz. Dubonnet Rouge
Half of a ripe peach
Pinch of ground cinnamon
1/4 oz. simple syrup
Ice cubes
Tools: shaker, strainer
Glass: rocks
Garnish: cinnamon sprinkled peach slice

Combine ingredients in an ice-filled shaker, shake vigorously and strain into and ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

10 Biodynamic Wines We Dig

For the unfamiliar, the philosophies behind biodynamic winemaking can seem a little too left of center. Biodynamic farmers take a holistic approach, work their land based on the lunar calendar and use miniscule amounts of fermented herbs and manure in place of chemical fertilizers. The principles behind biodynamic farming were born out of the 1924 lectures of philosopher and scientist Rudolf Steiner who believed that healthier crops come from nourishing the entire ecosystem around a plant, not just the plant itself. Today, winemakers are among the many farmers around the world that are taking Steiner’s methods more seriously.

Interested in seeing these ideas put into practice, we recently visited the Montinore Estate in the northwest corner of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Nestled into the coastal foothills, Montinore was conventionally farmed until 2006 when new owner Rudy Marchesi began converting the vineyards one-by-one. Today, all 230 acres are certified biodynamic by Demeter USA, the American arm of the international crediting agency, Demeter. Assisted by biodynamic consultant Philippe Arminiere, Marchesi applies the various biodynamic principles including cow horn-fermented manure, chamomile-stuffed hog casings and valerian flower water either directly to the vines in tiny amounts (50 grams of manure can be diluted in enough water to spray an entire acre) or in enriched compost, with the phases of the moon helping determine when to plant, cultivate and harvest crops. Here are 10 biodynamic wines from estates around the world that offer delicious expressions of the thriving ecosystem around them.

Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio Dolomiti 2008
Northern Italian winemaker Alois Lageder began experimenting with biodynamic farming in the 1990s and in 2004 converted all of his vineyards. This Pinot Grigio is rich and flavorful with light honey aromas and notes of white flowers, orange zest and sweet spice.

Brick House Pinot Noir “Les Dijonnais” 2008
The Dijon-clone Pinot Noir for this elegant wine comes from a single nine-acre parcel of biodynamically farmed land in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Bright, red cherry flavors are balanced by snappy, food-friendly acidity and a light spice on the finish.

Cowhorn Vineyard Grenache 74 2008

Taking its name from the number of hours these vines were covered in frost before the 2008 harvest, this hearty, unfiltered Grenache offers fresh rhubarb and blackberry flavors with a hint of dark chocolate on the finish.

Domaine de Veilloux Cheverney “Argilo” Rouge 2005

Light and funky, this Gamay/Pinot Noir blend mixes a barnyard-y nose with fresh raspberries flavors and a white peppery finish.

Domaine Julien Meyer Pinot Gris 2006
Lively and expressive, this Alsatian Pinot Gris offers fragrant savory aromas of green olives and fresh herbs while balancing great minerality and bright acidity.

Foradori Teroldego Rotaliano 2006
In the capable hands of Elisabetta Foradori, this rare Italian varietal is one you’ll want to revisit time after time for its plum and cassis flavors, soft tannins and spicy finish.

Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
This wine is approachable yet cellar-worthy with rich flavors of black cherry and licorice, chewy tannins and balanced barrel spice on the finish.

Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis Grand Cru “Les Clos” 2007
This 100-percent Chardonnay encapsulates everything we love about grand cru Chablis, from the chalky minerality to the honeyed lemon finish. Pair with fresh oysters or shrimp scampi.

Montinore Estate Almost Dry Riesling 2008

Certified biodynamic in 2008, this Willamette Valley Riesling is citrusy with notes of fresh lime and tangerine meeting bold minerality and a touch of peachy sweetness on the finish.

Nikolaihof Grüner Veltliner “Hefeabzug” 2008
Considered to be the oldest wine estate in Austria, Nikolaihof’s history dates back nearly 2000 years, and today is entirely Demeter-certified. Their Grüner is tart and tangy with notes of bright green apple and loads of stone minerality on the finish.