Author Archives: Sandra Spalding

2017 Holiday Party Tips

When hosting a party, from the welcome punch to the nightcap, I make sure that everyone is having a fun night… including ME!
Your guests feel your energy so if you’re stressed in the kitchen then they’ll feel it too. This holiday season, don’t get stressed out, but rather, plan plan plan! If you do it right, you’ll be a great host and have a great time yourself.
Tips for hosting:

Think of your party in phases!

Phase One: The Welcome Cocktail! Pick one thing, like a punch or a pre-batched Manhattan that you can pour easily OR your guests can pour for each other!
Phase Two: Themed drinks that fit the party. If it’s a Mediterranean meal, have a nice selection of Wines & imported beers on ice. Or if you want to keep going with cocktails, have the bar set up for easy shaking.
Phase Three: Once most of the crowd has left, there are always the core group of friends that stay behind! Have something really special held aside for them, that you can pull out and share. Something easy, like a grappa or a special whiskey or cognac.

Be thoughtful about pairings

Wine pairings don’t have to be complicated but you do want them to be thoughtful. The main things to think about are weight, flavor intensity, sweetness, fat and how they play against each other in the food & wine, as explained here.

Quantities & ICE

In general people will have one to two drinks the first hour and then a drink every hour after—up to four drinks. Check out our party scenarios guide here!
Indoors versus outdoors will change the dynamic depending on the weather. And, an older crowd will skew the dynamic a bit more toward classic wines, scotch, vodka & tequila. A younger crowd will appreciate esoteric wine, craft beer, whiskey and craft cocktails.
Don’t run out of ice! If you’re molding Big Ice Cubes, make extra days leading up to your party. Unmold them and place them in a Ziploc.
Other simple tips:

  • Get yourself in the mood by having great music playing BEFORE people start coming over!
  • Have a recycling bin lined and easy for your guests to access, so they can toss their own recycling.
  • Have some canned or bottled water on ice within guests reach.

 

San Antonio Cocktail Conference 2016 Wall Calendar!

SACCCocktailCalendarThe San Antonio Cocktail Conference, benefiting the Houston Street Charities, has put together one of the coolest locally made gifts around! A 2016 Wall Calendar featuring 12 cocktails from San Antonio restaurants and bars!

 

There are classic cocktails like the Negroni (Bohanan’s) and the French 75 (Luke) plus are new creations like the El Charro by Mezcaleria Mixtli featuring Montelobos Mezcal!

 

You can purchase the calendar online for $25 and give the gift of cocktail that gives back to the community! Click here to purchase!

WINE LIST: La Dolce Vita Food & Wine Festival!

Check out the Wine List Here!

Exercise the Whiskey Muscle

People say women have better palates… Sandra Spalding of Twin Liquors and Scarlett Greyson of Fox Good Day Austin discuss.

Whiskey-and-women---MyFoxAustin-_-KTBC-_-Fox-7-Austin-_-News-Weather-Sports

http://www.myfoxaustin.com/clip/11576225/whiskey-and-women

Memorial Weekend Cocktails

cocktailMemorial weekend comes so fast after the spring event season and I don’t know about you, but while I am so ready to relax, I don’t have the creative energy to spend a whole afternoon creating special cocktails. I just want to kick back and sip!

These are some fun ideas that will get your party going with VERY little effort and BIG flavor. Plus most of these cocktails are refreshing and are not super boozy.

mixersMy go to…Start with your favorite bottle of mineral water—I use Topo Chico—and swig out about 2 ounces, then pour in a shot of a good reposado tequila. Top with lime and, boom, you’ve got a portable, dry refreshing cocktail, clocking in at about 100 calories! It’s also 12oz of water, so you’ll stay hydrated!! Topo also comes inplastic screwcap bottles, so you can do the same if you are pool-side or onaboat!

If you are not as worried about calories as I am, and you need some caffeine, the Cuba Libre is a fantastic summer sipper! Use Mexican Coca Cola, good rum and a lime (250 calories). You can get creative and use spiced or berry flavored rums if you like that sort of thing.

limesThen there is the Gin & Tonic. It’s having a resurgence, so says the blog-o-sphere. Regardless, I LOVE a good G&T, but I usually only drink one, maybe two… tonic gets to be a little too sweet for me. The thing about the G&T today is that, with all the different gin profiles out there now, you can experience so many different flavors. The ingredient to which I hold strict is that I use really good tonic, like Fever Tree (90 calories) or the Liber & Co Spiced Tonic Concentrate. This ensures that no matter what gin I use, the sweet component of the tonic is of good quality and therefore eases the opportunity for a sun-drenched-alcohol-aided headache! Nobody wants those!

And lastly, for those of you who want to get a little creative, try a Cointreau Rickey (190 calories). Cointreau is an orange flavored, 80 proof spirit, made from the zest of sweet and bitter oranges. That’s what gives it balance! You don’t need to measure the Rickey too closely, so you will almost never mess this up. 2 oz of Cointreau, 1 oz Lime Juice and 4 oz Club Soda is an easy combo. And if you like fruit, add some muddled berries, cucumber slices and mint leaves. Think of it like an alternative to Sangria. In fact, this would be a great cocktail to make in pitchers if you have a crowd.

 

Thirsty yet? I am. See you at the pool…Cheers!

Women of Whiskey Tour 2015

The Beam-Suntory company put together the Women of Whiskey Tour which kicked off at Arizona Cocktail Week last weekend and landed in Austin today. We had a great time  tasting Whiskey from all over the world and learning how these women have excelled in this male dominated field.

Victoria Macrae-Samuels was a chemist from the Pacific Coast, who made her way to Kentucky following a series of spontaneous decisions, which lead her to a job with the Booker Noe and ultimately to Maker’s Mark. She is the first woman distillery manager in Bourbon country.

Tish Harcus has been with Canadian Club for over 20 years. While working with a law firm, she drove by the CC distillery every day, where the aroma wafting in the air lured her in. She has an infectious passion for whiskey and its place in bringing people together.

Stella Lacken grew up with an Irish grandmother who believed that Irish Whiskey could cure anything. And so, a bottle was always near by in their household. It was just a way of life. She enjoys being a brand ambassador of Kilbeggan Irish and traveling the country educating people on the Irish Whiskey way of life.

Vicky Stevens’ first distillery tour was on a school field trip at 8 years old. Over the many years after, while she grew up the Speyside area, she was exposed to all things Scotch. She found her way to Isla with Laphroaig, as the first employee hired to expand their “guest experience” from private appointments, to a full fledged operation. She now has an entire team. She is funny, charming and travels with her own block of peat!

WOWBeamLadies

Margaret Jabour, Victoria Macrae-Samuels, Stella Lacken, Vicky Stevens, Tish Harcus, Sandra Spalding

WOWBeamSimonPeat

Firing up the PEAT!

WOWBeamTastingMat

Cocktails by Drink.Well.

WOWBeamSSMJ WOWBeamBar   WOWBeamTish WOWBeamVSamuelsMakers

 

Super Bowl Cocktails

Will the Seahawks have the The Last Word ? or will the Pats take it over the top with the New England Surf & Turf Bloody Mary

TheLastWord

BloodyMaryLobsterWScarlett

 

Or you can go Coffee vs Tea with a Texas twist, by facing off the XO Cafe Milk Shake and the Texas Sweet Tea Party

TequilaXOMilkshake   TexasLemonTea

Extra Dry Champagne is Sweeter?

It’s true! Bubbles labeled as “Extra Dry” are actually sweeter than Brut. Here is a quick breakdown on Sparkling and Champagne to help you choose the perfect popper for your Holiday gathering!

Champagne & Sparkling Guide

CHAMPAGNE: Sparkling wine produced from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France. Grapes are generally Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.

Sparkling ROSE: “Pink” Sparkling produced either by leaving the clear juice of red grapes to briefly macerate on their skins or by adding a small amount of still Pinot Noir to the sparkling wine cuvée.

CAVA: Sparkling wine produced in the traditional champagne method from grapes grown mostly in Spain’s Catalonia region. Cava can be white or rose and is made primarily of Macabeu, Parellada and Xarel·lo.

PROSECCO: Sparkling Italian white wine produced in Northern Italy, made from the grape Glera (aka Prosecco!)

Levels of Sweetness

A Dosage (sugar + wine) is added to Sparkling which determines its sweetness level…

EXTRA BRUT: Sparkling wine which will have less than 6 grams of sugar per liter with a bone dry finish.

BRUT: The most common style, this Sparkling wine will have less than 12 grams of sugar per liter with generally a dry finish.

EXTRA DRY: Sparkling wine which will have 12-17 grams of sugar per liter with a sweeter finish than Brut.

DEMISEC: Sparkling wine which will have 30-50 grams of sugar per liter with a very sweet finish.

DOUX: Very sweet sparkling with 50+ grams of sugar per liter.

HOLIDAY SPARKLING PUNCH RECIPE: Rougey Boozy Sparkling Punch

 

How to Make Punch Ice

Thank You for Wanting More of a Good Thing

I have been writing about and researching cocktails for over 6 years now. I have sat at many bars across the country; I have fallen in love with tiny cocktail menus; I have crushed on bartenders, men and women alike; and, I have and been exposed to so many wonderful ingredients that play the part in the makeup of high quality cocktails. From mixers to Mezcal, when it is quality-made, you can taste it. Continue reading

‘Tis The Season To Be Bubbly

Whether you’re popping the cork for a New Year’s Eve celebration or just enjoying your favorite brunch beverage, it’s always good to have some general knowledge about Champagne & Sparkling. Continue reading

Three Cocktails for Red Wine Drinkers

Last weekend at the San Antonio Cocktail conference I attended a seminar on the Old Fashioned cocktail. The seminar itself left a little to be desired, but it was interesting nonetheless. Specifically, there was a moment when I started thinking about the fact that the Old Fashioned is the type of cocktail that changes over time. As the ice melts, it “opens up” and mellows, while getting richer in flavor. Continue reading

New Years Eve – Champagne Cocktails

champagnecocktails_0

Champagne is always on my NYE agenda, but I like to mix it up with some Spirit too! Continue reading

SIT at the BAR-with Russell Davis at Rickhouse, San Francisco

SIT at the BAR-round copyEver walk into a bar and feel a little intimidated to order a cocktail? Maybe a too cool scene? Or  too vast of a selection? Whatever it is, if you have a good host, they will guide you to choose the perfect cocktail.

We arrived on the scene and there must have been some sort of young-hipster-republican (if those exist) conventions going on. They were everywhere. But because of the radical Russell Davis, mixologist, our gang got to SIT at the BAR. Continue reading

SIT at the BAR-Make it Count

SIT at the BAR-round copyThis installment of SIT at the BAR was going to be our first video blog. I wasn’t just going to SIT at the BAR, but rather, I was going to hang out at “Tales of the Cocktail” in New Orleans with bartenders from all over the country and talk philosophy and passion, and make it all into a slick video, with the help of my creative partner, Brent Herrmann. However, the day before I left town, I found out that Brent passed away suddenly the night Continue reading

SIT at the BAR-Zig Zag Cafe, Seattle

I love to have the last word… but made by a bartender, or a mixologist? SIT at the BAR-round copy

I had the pleasure of spending a recent weekend in Seattle and was given a nice tip by my friend, bartender extraordinaire Russell Davis. He saw through Facebook that I was in Seattle and suggested that I hit up a local bar. The post was: Go to a bar called Zag Zag and ask Murray to make you a “Last Word.” Of course, I love a great bartender, so when Russell says go, I go. Continue reading

SIT at the BAR-NYC

NYCBlogNew York City? Get a rope! For all you Austinites who are getting into what we are calling our year of Mixology, New York is worth a trip for Happy Hour, not that you will find any cheaply priced drinks, but at least to explore the vibe and see what is already in full swing at many establishments there, from the most luxe restaurants to the bars in the Jet Blue/JFK terminal! Continue reading

Attack of the Clonal selection. – A study in quality control and precision

attackofthecolonal1What better way to spend star wars day, than with a bunch of clones…  😉

I was invited to sit the Castello Banfi Seminar at Trio, along with a handful of other cork dorks…retailers, restaurateurs and writers. There were about 20 of us and about 240 glasses of wine! I really didn’t know what I was in for until I sat down and looked at the tasting sheet. Lined up before me were actual clonal selections of Sangiovese, Clone BF 30, Clone Janus 10 and Clone Janus 50. We tasted each on their own and then blended together. We had some other fantastic wines too, but i was more interested in the clones, because it was such a treat to actually taste the process. And what a process it was to get to where they are now. Continue reading

Domaine du Pegau, and the Lovely Lady Winemaker

pegovino-pegauI’m going to geek out a little here!  I was invited to “cover” a wine tasting event for the Wine & Food Foundation of Texas. Apparently they needed a female blogger to meet with a female winemaker. Well, when I heard it was Ms. Laurence Feraud from Domaine du Pegau, I immediately accepted.

I love to paint a picture…

It was a really gorgeous night. The warm sun was setting after a 91degree day and there was a gentle dry breeze. The patio was set with three wines to taste and some tasty little bites by our host restaurant, Fabi & Rosi. Lovely! Michael Vilim graciously donated the wines. And, I have to say here, I think limiting it to just a handful is so nice. It was so great to spend 20 minutes with each wine, lingering over them, as opposed to these grand tastings where your palate is so stressed but you want to taste on for fear of missing something. You winos know what I mean.  Continue reading

Derby Day with Maker’s Mark

sandra-lara-derbyA lovely afternoon with friends, Maker’s Mark and ponies…what a great way to spend Derby Day! The Tipsy Texan and Maker’s Mark hosted this lovely party at Rain Lily Farms on the East Side. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, warm yet dry. I arrived on the scene early enough to stroll the grounds quietly and watch folks trickling in clad in seersucker and big hats. I grabbed my official Churchill Downs glass, dipped in red wax (thank you, Adam Harris of Maker’s Mark!), and headed to the bar. In one booth the classic Mint Julep was being served. And, in the other there were a few takes on the julep…a Raspberry one, a great orange and thyme twist and a cinnamon julep. All the variations were creations by Tipsy Tech students…my classmates! Yay! Continue reading

SIT at the BAR – South Congress Café

SouthCongressVEEVI was headed to the Four Seasons for our final board meeting for the Hill Country Wine & Food Festival, when I realized that I hadn’t eaten all day and it was 3pm!! Well, I was on South Congress, so I popped into my favorite place in the neighborhood: South Congress Café.  Even though it was 3pm and I knew I wasn’t going to drink, I decided to SIT at the BAR anyway. I was greeted by adorable Kelly and, upon asking her about the burger, she advised me that it was “one of the best burgers in town”. So I gave it a shot and, boy was it yummy. Thick and juicy and full of flavor-on a sweet & buttery, potato roll!! Between big bites, I peppered Kelly with questions about the new spirit Veev, which I noticed sitting behind the bar amongst a bunch of half drunk drinks. She happened to be experimenting with Veev cocktails just as I walked in…how serendipitous! So, if you were wondering, Veev is an Acai spirit that has hint of the fruit (kind of a blueberry flavor)

and mixes well with juices and herbs. At South Congress Café, they were “getting it” and were making drinks that complimented the spirit well. I saw a julep and the drink that I got to taste was the “Joie de Veev”. This was designed by Jesse, the bar manager. A refreshing drink, the JdV is a ginger, limey, Veev cocktail…I thought it could have used a bit more ginger, but I am sure they will perfect the recipe as they hone it…I mean, it’s not even on the menu yet! But, as soon as it is I will go back an order another on a really hot spring day. Oh, and the other really cool thing that happened…when I asked for my check, I was informed that when you SIT at the BAR from Sunday evening thru Tuesday, you get 20% off on food. What a deal! Looks like I’m onto something with this whole “SIT at the BAR” thing.

SIT at the BAR-FINO: Cocktail & Food Pairings and Eggs

FINO-ST GERMAIN-resizedThe setting: A long white high top table; 17 people, from industry folks to “at-home/amateur” bartenders; a slight murmur from the dining room, and the quiet hustle of a well oiled restaurant staff. This was the scene at FINO on Wednesday night for the St. Germain Dinner. I didn’t get to SIT at the BAR, so the bartender came to us! Continue reading

SIT at the BAR-East Side Show Room

velpar-ESSRSt. Germain is my favorite liqueur…”  I am hearing this out and about town. It’s the new hot thing;  however it’s not so new. I first heard about the liqueur about a year and a half ago from David Allen, the “Tipsy Texan,” who is incidentally teaching the mixology class “Tipsy Tech” in which I am currently enrolled.

You may or may not know that I have featured St. Germain in several KXAN spots over the last few months with Cava and in a Greentini with Sake. Well, once more I have a terrific drink that I want to share with you all. Continue reading

SIT at the BAR – Mixology/Ladies Night/KXAN

ladiesnightblogOkay, so I’m not sitting at a bar but,
I’M REGISTERED! for two mixology classes…one online and another “in Austin” course.
For the online, I am awaiting a February first due date for the Pernod sponsored Bar Smarts Wired program. I hear it’s difficult and I am super excited… This is gonna be great!
And the “in Austin” is going to be a 12 week course offered by the Tipsy Texan, sponsored by Twin Liquors. This will have us focusing on a different spirit each week-going thru the history of the distillation to creation of classic and new cocktails. It will be a fun communal experience to compliment my solo “online” studies. Continue reading

SIT at the BAR-La Condesa

corazon2I usually write my blogs first thing in the morning, but after my visit to La Condesa I couldn’t help but rush home and put my thoughts to…um paper…computer!

So, I needed to grab a quick bite before hitting the grocery store for dinner supplies. And, as in typical fashion…I like to make my meals count. Meaning, if it’s not worth putting in my body, then I’d rather starve! So, it was a bit out of the way to drive down to 2nd street, but I wanted to SIT at the BAR at La Condesa. Upon arrival, the bartender was super friendly and we hit it off right away. I asked him about their bloody mary mix…turns out they make it from scratch with lots of different herbs and spices. So, I ordered one up…but let’s use El Jimador tequila instead and make it a Bloody Maria. Yummy! Very nice smokey flavor, with a hint of spice…and oh my, the tequila was terrific! Continue reading

SIT at the BAR – MIZU

SitAtTheBar2So, I was in the mood for Asian or Fusion or something of the like…Mizu was the perfect candidate…they’ve been open at their new location for about 5 months and have been getting really good reviews. So, I sat at the “bar bar” at first and asked for a drink menu…turns out they were between designing menus and didn’t have one officially. I asked the bartender for something refreshing and light…maybe cucumber. He suggested a Ginger Infused Patron Martini. Holy Wow! What a drink. Pureed fresh ginger infused with Patron silver. And a jalapeño, lime juice. Mix it all together and serve up. The drink is spicy, sweet and smoky. Absolutely fantastic. Continue reading

SIT at the BAR

sandrablogIt’s a new decade…as I look back on last year’s blogs I see a common theme. Cocktails and quality ingredients.

I feel like I’ve been onto something here that I want to explore even more. So, this year I am going to take my New Years resolution to the next level and get certified in mixology. Is that something you can even do? I am going to guess, YES! I am also going to SIT at the BAR! This is my new mantra. Well, it’s not SO new. I’ve always enjoyed sitting at the bar. There is a security for me there. And, it’s not just if I’m alone…in fact, I often sit at the bar with friends. And, it’s not just to talk to people either..even though I do love to do that too. I think it’s because I like to watch! It’s like the TV food network of cocktails. I enjoy watching all the different drinks being shaken up! mixed up! And, sometimes-when they make too much-I can even get a taste of something…yay! Continue reading

Sparkling Cocktails

sandraSo, I know I’ve talked about this before, but I am just so into the sparkling cocktail. And, what better way to rev up NY Eve than with a drink dashed with bubbles! This is my way of making things fancy without having to go overboard. You can make all these drinks for a crowd…or just for two! Serve wine friendly bites and put on some great tunes and viola! you’ll be ready to count down to the New Year!

Do you have a Sweet Tooth?
A couple of weeks ago, we had a fun tasting at the Twin Liquors Marketplace tasting a different Sparkling Martini every night. There was the Moonlight Martini, Orange Blossom, Bellini, Pearfect and Candy Apple. They were all fun, but be warned you must have a sweet tooth for these.

  
Are you more of a classicist?
The Kir Royale is of course the quintessential sparkling cocktail. Many others like this can be made with fine liqueurs. Try a Framboise if you like raspberries or Amaretto if you like a more nutty flavor. My personal favorite is the Velvet Amber, which is Grand Marnier and a dash of cranberry juice in a champagne flute filled with bubbles. I actually drink the Velvet Amber a little cooler than room temperature. I find that the richness is complimented by a warmer temperature than being ice cold. Whatever your preference, these are all very classy cocktails.

Want to bring out the Austin-ist in you?
Okay, then try the Sparkling Saturday Night Margarita. This packs a punch and is festive with bubbles while reminding us that we are after all in Austin Texas. I love the tart lime, accompanied by the richness of the Grand Marnier and the light vibrancy of the bubbles. I make this one for a crowd, but beware it can sneak up on you. If that’s too rich for you, then try the Sling-Back…the simplicity of the this drink is that it’s bubbles over ice with a squeeze of lime! Very basic, but it is so refreshing and light. Actually, as I sit hear on December 27th with my air conditioner blasting, I think a slingback might be on the menu!

As with any of these festive cocktails, they can sneak up on you with a kick, so drink responsibly. And of course if making cocktails is just to cumbersome for you, a glass of classic champagne is timless and simple. I will be sipping on the Andre Clouet 1911 to start the night, then moving onto the Velvet Amber!

Recipes can also be found in the Recipe section of our website.

Sparkling Martinis

Moonlight Martini
1 part absolut kurant
1 part hiram walker blueberry passion
splash prosecco
garnish with blueberry

Orange Blosson Martini
1 partAbsolut Mandarin
1 part Hiram Walker Tangerine Schnapps
splash prosecco
garnish with orange twist

Bellini Martini
1 part Absolut Apeach
1 part Hiram Walker White Peach Schnapps
splash of Prosecco
garnish with peach slice or cherry

Pearfect Martini
1 part Absolut Apear
1 part Hiram Walker Pear Schnapps
splash of Prosecco
garnish with pear slice

Candy Apple Martini
1 part Absolut Vodka
1 part Hiram Walker Sour Apple Schnapps
splash of Prosecco
garnish with a red sugar rim, apple slice and cherry

Classic Cocktails

Kir Royale
1 part Chambord, or Cassis Liqueur chilled (also try other liqueurs like frambois or amaretto)
3 parts sparkling wine chilled
combine in champagne flute

Velvet Amber
1 part Grand Marnier
1/2 part cranberry juice
3 parts sparkling wine, chilled
combine in chamgane flute

Austin Inspired

Sparkling Saturday Night Margarita (Mexico 57)
1 part Grand Marnier
1 part sweet n sour
2 parts Cuervo Platino
2 parts Chandon Brut
pour into salt rimmed wine goblet filled with ice
garnish twist of lime

Slingback
3-4 oz. Slightly Sweet Sparkling Wine, like Mumm Cuvee M, Mumm Demi-Sec, Chandon Riche or Gruet Demi-Sec
Lime Wedge
In a Champagne Fulte filled with ice, top with Sparkling wine and garnish with squeeze of lime

The Italian Revelation, and why I love to eat and drink

cheeseItaly has so much to offer in the way of lifestyle, culture, food and of course wine. Hospitality abounds throughout this country…All regions enjoy the communal aspect of breaking bread and toasting with wine–yet each region has a distinct flavor. Cream sauces in Parma…tomatoes in Roma. Burgundian style wines in the North to ripe and bright reds in the south. All these differences a common thread remains. Keep it local, fresh and real. But why? Continue reading

Winetails

Winetails are the new trend. Wine-tails? Stories about wine? you ask. No, we are talking wine cocktails. These are fun drinks that incorporate or feature wine.

Substitute wine to make a lower alcohol version of your favorite drink or add wine to rev-up your favorite martini or margarita. In the 1960s and the 1980s wine cocktails were all the rage. However, over the last 25 years or so they disappeared from the bar. Continue reading

News Years Resolution

New Years Resolution #1 – Start a Wine Tasting Group

NYResolution

My Resolution this year is to drink more wine, enjoy more food and make it all count. I find that the older I get the more discriminating my palate becomes. Why drink just any wine when there are so many great wines in everyone’s budget and taste. But how do you find the wines you are looking for? Tasting of course! So, for those of you out there who have decided to start a wine group as your new years resolution here are some helpful tips.

Priority one, pick a day of the month and stick to it. The wine group I belong to meets every second Tuesday of the month. This makes it really easy when looking ahead at a calendar and planning. I suggest meeting every month, but if that’s too tedious make it even or odd months.

Next step, hosting…Generally there is a ringleader for these types of groups and it will more often fall upon that person to host. But if you can get a group of participants large enough, the hosting can be rotated. The key is to make it easy. Be prepared with cheeses, breads, crackers and fruits as well as a sweet treat. All bite size is the best…no hassling with utensils. Glassware can be supplied by the host, but I have found that it is much easier to ask guests to bring their own stem. This makes cleanup a breeze for the host.

Now the wine! First, a theme must be chosen, whether democratically or host choice. Try to make it seasonally apropos, whites in the heat of summer, reds in colder weather…you get the idea. You can theme by region, varietal, price, favorites, collectables-after seven years my Tuesday wine group still has exciting themes, some we have repeated but not often. The possibilities are endless. If you need help just ask one of our Twin Liquors Wine Authorities for some ideas.

The next step is to convey your theme and meeting place to all those invited and make each person bring at least one bottle of wine, their stem of course and something with which to take notes. I prefer blind tastings (brown bagged)…this eliminates any preconceived ideas and really makes you think about the actual tasting.

At this point it becomes a free for all tasting…a little bit social, a little bit wine geek! Advise folks to pour 1-ounce pours and to spit, rather than swallow (remember: 20, 1-ounce pours is 4 glasses of wine, whew!). I tend to spit everything and then return to the top 3-6 I am considering and enjoy those.

Once you can corral everyone back into focus, have everyone rank their top 5, calibrate the winners and then reveal the wines from least ranked to winner. (An interesting twist is to have everyone bring their wine for the tasting as well as a duplicate bottle…whoever has the winning wine, wins all the duplicate bottles.)

Lastly, make sure to follow up with your group by sharing the results within the next few days. This takes work, but is worth it because after tasting upwards of 20 or so wines the memory isn’t usually up to par. If you want to get crazy, you can do research on some of the wines and include that info as well…how intellectual you get is really up to you.

Follow these ideas and with fairly minimal effort your journey to discovering new wines will be exciting and varied. Or, you can join an already existing group!

A Bronx-tail…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOkay, okay, so this time the whole night wasn’t about eating and drinking! This time it was about the amazing Chaz Palminteri staring in the one-man Broadway show A Bronx Tale. The Long Center packed the house last night (9/3) with the opening night of this fantastic show. It was 90 minutes of non-stop Chaz…I mean he didn’t even take a sip of water. He took us thru his adolescence, perched on the stoop of 187th and Belmont. We laughed, we laughed harder, we were so quiet you could you could hear a pin…we’ll you get it…the audience was absoultely consumed by his performance. In a day an age where I feel standing Os are a little excessive yet sometimes tentative-last night when the curtain fell folks jumpped to their feet and rightly so.

After the show a few of us retreated to the Kodosky donor lounge and sipped wine and Bronx-tail themed “Palm”agranite martinis made with Pama Pamagranite liqueur… courtesy of Twin Liquors and shaken by Sterling Affairs! Then the true treat…Chaz himself came upstairs and met and greeted everyone. He was incredibly humble and kind. He spoke a few words to the crowd… sincerely expressing his appreciation for the Texas/Austin hospitality he was shown. It was his first trip here… but he’ll be back! He even had the character Sunny giving the crowd the hook’em!

Incidentally, I heard him talking about eating at III Forks–he’s a big fan! That’s saying a lot from a guy who I’m sure has dined in some of New Yorks finest!