In another life, I would have loved to pursue graphic design. I hardly know anything about it, but I am a sucker for beautiful branding. I remember watching the documentary Helvetica in college and being completely enthralled. Clean typography makes my heart melt. I am in love with Anthropologie‘s whimsical marketing. Cookbooks with ample white space and simple, rustic photos… I just can’t get enough.
When I first found out about Art in the Age‘s organic spirits line (via Joy the Baker), I knew it was only a matter of time before I tracked down one of their liqueurs to call my own. The appearance of the bottle takes my breath away. The sharp label, the quirky handrawn-like tag telling the backstory… it’s too much!
Art in the Age currently makes four different spirits: ROOT, SNAP, RHUBARB, and SAGE. Joy has written a few times about SNAP, which apparently tastes like ginger snap and sounds just incredible. I was intrigued by SAGE, a gin-like spirit — though nottechnically a gin since it does not include juniper berries. The smell of sage always makes me think of Christmas and the holidays. Art in the Age’s SAGE is modeled after the plants in Thomas Jefferson’s garden! I was very excited to find a bottle at Potomac Wines and Spirits in Georgetown.
We hosted our bible study for a Christmas Cocktail Party a few weeks ago and tasked each couple with bringing a pitcher of their favorite cocktail — and then we all voted on the best one. There was quite a range of drinks! A Trump wine cocktail (50% sparkling, 50% dessert wine), a “Beergria” (exactly what is sounds like!), a mulled cider Manhattan with bourbon, Winter Sangria, and our cocktail, a Rosemary Sage Fizz.
I wanted to share the Rosemary Sage Fizz with you today, because I think it is the perfect Christmas to New Year’s transition drink. You have the winter forest notes with the rosemary and sage flavors, along with some bubbles of celebration! We tried SAGE in a few different cocktail recipes before the party, and this one was our absolute favorite. (I’ll also mention that it won the contest!)
This beautiful drink involves homemade rosemary simple syrup, SAGE liqueur, Prosecco (yay!), fresh lemon juice, and garnishes of lemon slices and rosemary. I have been intimidated by making simple syrup in the past, but it is actually not hard at all and makes quite the difference in cocktails. I’m hooked, and want to try making simple syrup everything now.
If you don’t have the desire to buy SAGE liqueur, try making this with regular gin. I wonder what the drink would taste like if you used a standard gin along with a fresh rosemary and sage simple syrup. It’s worth a try!
Suburban living has a lot to offer. Say what you want, city folks, but it’s true.
Reasonable housing prices, good schools, accessible parking spaces. Great if you are starting a family. This is what led my husband and me to move to the hinterlands north of Los Angeles. For the most part, we are content.
Except where are the cocktails? The real cocktails. Not Mudslides and Appletinis, but serious drinks for serious drinking. Let’s face it, the average suburban restaurant isn’t exactly the epicenter of the craft cocktail movement. But recently the trickle-down theory has reared its head and higher-end chain restaurants are starting to catch up, offering old-school cocktails for their customers. Suddenly, the ‘burbs are drinking like they mean it.
The realization began with an innocent lunch foray this past summer. I walked into the California Pizza Kitchen near my house and, rather than having only the choice of a Lemon Drop or a Cosmo, I noticed a Strawberry Rhubarb Martini made with Art in the Age Rhubarb liqueur on the menu. Not exactly your average chain-restaurant cocktail.
On a different day, I learned that Islands, purveyors of the Pipeline burger and Yaki tacos, was infusing its tequila with house-roasted pineapple for its Makaha Maggie margarita. And then, during a road trip through Arizona, I found myself in Applebee’s, which bills itself as a “neighborhood bar and grill.” On the menu: an Old Fashioned and a Brandy Smash. I wondered if Jerry Thomas, the proclaimed 19th century godfather of the cocktail movement, was rolling drunkenly around in his grave.
I wondered what led these restaurants—with business already booming—to plunge into the classical drink world. For Mike Hurt, beverage director at Applebee’s, it was as simple as making a good business better. “Momentum behind the bourbon segment of the category is really strong,” he explains. “Consumers have been trending toward brown spirits for some time. Combining that macro-level consumer trend with the trend toward an appreciation for things that are authentic and have some historic relevance led us in this direction.” Business speak, sure, but if Applebee’s is serving up an Old Fashioned and a Smash, you can could certainly argue that craft cocktails are now reaching the masses, not just the cocktail cognoscenti.
Wisely, Applebee’s focused on familiar, basic cocktails without a lot of shaker bells and infusion whistles. Its Old Fashioned and Brandy Smash have several things in common. As Hurt summarizes, “They are really clean, straightforward drinks. They focus primarily on the flavor of the spirit, they are seasonally appropriate and, from an execution standpoint, they are not complicated to make and can be made pretty quickly.” Crafty thinking in a competitive market.
Much like today’s craft cocktail bars, Islands has always tried to use fresh ingredients and has rotated its cocktail menu seasonally. Though known for the house Mai Tai, the majority of Islands’ drinks are more prosaic. Then, recently, the chain introduced a hand-shaken Strawberry Daiquiri and a spicy Mango Shandy.Islands Restaurant has a similar concept. “Pineapple is one of Islands’ key ingredients,” says vice president of food and beverage, Tim Perriera. “We use 14,000 pounds of it every week—and we’ve been grilling it for our signature Hawaiian Burger since the first restaurant opened more than 30 years ago. With the popularity of infused liquors on the rise, we started experimenting with how to incorporate it into our tropical cocktails. We infused tequila with grilled pineapple and used the tequila in our Makaha Maggie margarita.”
To me, though, California Pizza Kitchen is at the forefront of this strip-mall cocktail boom. During the summer, that Strawberry Rhubarb Martini I so willingly embraced took artisan spirits brand Art in the Age’s Rhubarb tea liqueur and blended it with fresh strawberries, Monin organic agave nectar and fresh lemon. The result? Pretty damn tasty—even if it isn’t strictly a Martini according to the textbook definition.
CPK’s upcoming menu continues to play on its philosophy of fresh ingredients with a California twist. Like Applebee’s, CPK has created a Smash. The Blueberry Ginger Smash combines Jack Daniels and Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur with agave nectar, blueberries, lime and cranberry juice. In another example, the Svedka vodka–based California Roots plays with fresh avocado and mint, as well as, shockingly, a fennel salt rim. When a chain restaurant starts rimming its glasses with fennel salt, the cocktail-shaking times are a-changin’.
As craft cocktail bars in big cities chart even more experimental territory, suburbia is starting to catch on—and catch up. Spirits are one of the biggest parts of a restaurant’s business. It pays to play the game. As Mike Hurt of Applebee’s says, “We view the spirits category as a place to be a little experimental.” We in the strip mall jungle thank them.
Other than the non-stop holiday tunes blasting from my Songza all month long, it hasn’t felt much like Christmas. With our move on the horizon, I’d say we’ve been rather preoccupied. We made the decision early on to skip the tree and decorations and gifts altogether this year. Our moving truck is coming in less than one week, I mean I haven’t even packed one single thing yet and we’re heading to New York tomorrow to celebrate the holidays. Gah! Moving in December is seriously crazy-town. But nothing can get done while we’re away, right? Exactly. So I’m vowing now to let it all go and really enjoy the hell out of the next few days.
New York is going to be so great. I’ll get to see my parents and all of my brothers and sisters. A Broadway show is happening, the Rockefeller tree is happening and lots and lots of yummy food, cozy drinks and laughs for days I’m sure. Now that will feel like Christmas, and I can’t wait. But before I hit the road so many things still need to happen. Laundry must get washed, brownies must get baked, gifts need to be wrapped and bags gotta get packed. So I’m bringing you a quick little two-ingredient Christmas cocktail. These ROOT n’ Cream Cocktails are too easy friends and I’m gonna tell how to whip it together below…
But first, a little shameless self-promotion because I was featured on this list!! Holy wow, this is seriously pretty cool. And, if you aren’t already following me on Insta, you should totally do it now.
These little babies are powered by Art in the Age my favorite spirits in all the land. ROOTis not a root beer flavored vodka or syrupy sweet liqueur. ROOT is a botanical blend of sassafras, sarsaparilla, birch bark and other wild roots and herbs. And if you’ve never tried it, really you should.
Click here to see where AITA is sold near you.
ROOT N’ CREAM COCKTAILS
This recipe makes 1 delicious drink and/or dessert; this is the ice cube mold I used.
Fill shortie glasses with ice.
Pour in the ROOT, top with coconut milk.
And if you feel like it, pretty these babies up with a sprinkle of cocoa powder.
Enjoy immediately, drink responsibly.
Here’s the Negroni’s earthy, more herbaceous cousin thanks to a sage-infused spirit from Art in the Age.
1 1/2 ounces Art in the Age SAGE
1 1/2 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce Carpano Antica (preferred) or sweet vermouth
Fill a shaker halfway with ice; combine all ingredients in a shaker and shake. Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Add an orange wedge and sage leaf for garnish.
THE SMOKING GUN
This is not for the faint of heart—mezcal and Fernet-Branca are heavy-duty liquors in both the taste and alcohol-content departments.
1 1/2 ounces mezcal
1/2 ounce Fernet-Branca
1/2 ounce Art in the Age SNAP
1/2 ounce simple syrup (2 parts sugar to one part water)
1/2 ounce lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a shaker and dry-shake (no ice) for about 2-3 minutes. Add ice to shaker and shake again to chill. Strain into a chilled coupe glass.
EGGNOG fan Donal McCoy of Sassafras in Old City (48 S. 2nd St.) will be serving this version of the classic holiday drink through Jan. 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. It’s $8 a glass.
16 eggs, yolks and whites separated
1 1/3 cups sugar, plus an additional 1/8 cup
1/2 gallon milk
1 quart heavy cream
Cinnamon and nutmeg, for seasoning
Using a stand mixer, whip egg yolks (keep whites in separate container) on high until color lightens, about 3 minutes.
Once yolks change color, slowly incorporate the 1 1/3 cups sugar. After sugar is blended in, add milk and heavy cream.
Transfer mixture to a bell pot. Using the stand mixer, whip egg whites on high until frothy and thick, then add reserved sugar to form a meringue.
Whisk meringue mixture into the bell pot, season with cinnamon and nutmeg, then add alcohol: two parts Dad’s Hat Rye, one part Art in the Age SNAP. Makes 24 servings.
FORGET THE War on Christmas. If we truly want to move America into a new era of bipartisan, interfaith holiday tranquillity, we need to end the War on Eggnog.
Strong in stance and swift in judgment, the anti-nog lobby in this country is formidable.
Boldly disregarding their poor mothers’ “if you can’t say something nice” directives, members have turned the cowardly public trashing of this historic beverage into an art form. Mirth-filled mugs of cold-weather cheer, concocted with eggs, sugar, milk, wintry spices and enough hard liquor to raise Bukowski from the grave are now subject to rash attacks from the straight-hate side of the aisle.
It’s too sweet.
It’s too heavy.
It makes me sick.
It’s so unhealthy.
I had a bad experience with it at Uncle Jeff’s Secret Santa gift exchange in 1987, and I’ll never drink it again.
As unreasonable as this all sounds to the pro-nog people of this great country (can you tell I’m one?), it’s not all their fault. We’ve gotten away from the true essence of the nog, and our definitions and expectations have been strained as a result.
Luckily, right here in Philly, there’s a small contingent of bartenders doing the Lord’s work this holiday season – assuming the Lord (whichever one you like) is a dyed-in-the-wool nog lover.
Americans have been drinking eggnog, or something like it, since the 1700s. Though working eggs (particularly the whites) into cocktails has found a nostalgic niche on modern cocktail lists, this practice was common among 18th-century bartenders. Look at a drink like flip, a combination of ale, rum or brandy, eggs and sugar, quickly poured between two containers until thick and frothy, then topped with grated nutmeg.
This could be considered the proto-nog.
Nog by that name, meanwhile, started showing up around the turn of the 19th century. In his book Imbibe!, cocktail historian David Wondrich digs up an early mention of eggnog in print: a juicy political tidbit in an 1801 edition of the Pittsburgh Gazette, involving a western Pennsylvania judge getting so belligerent on the stuff in a Washington County tavern that some locals were forced to douse hizzoner with buckets of ice water.
Eggnog: Ruining Christmas since the Jefferson administration!
(Donal McCoy, the Irishman who owns Sassafras in Old City, never had eggnog growing up, but “took to it like a duck to water” upon arriving Stateside.)
The sneaky strength of nog made with a heavy hand – it goes down easy . . . almost too easy – seems to be one reason people are so conflicted about its consumption during the holiday season. Another big one: the quality, or lack thereof, of commercial nogs stocked in the supermarket cold case.
A question of ingredients
“That stuff you get in the grocery store is pretty gross,” says Emmanuelle bartender Phoebe Esmon, who, on Sunday night, will offer a special all-nog menu at her Northern Liberties cocktail lounge. “[It] generally involves a bunch of emulsifiers and corn syrup and other questionable coloring agents and chemical compounds.”
“Sweet” Lou DiNunzio, bartender at Rex 1516, also connects nog naysayers with mass-produced versions. “Store-bought eggnog killed the market on it over the years,” he said. “It’s highly viscous, like drinking pancake batter. People don’t understand what the final product should be like.”
Though he readily admits that he enjoys crushing an entire quart of this batter-like nog while stalking the supermarket aisles for Christmas dinner, DiNunzio’s right: That thick, sickly sweet product is just a third of the total equation.
Cutting that base with alcohol, spices and flavorings, plus lightening it up by working in a whipped element (cream or egg whites) – is not only traditional, it’s absolutely vital to the enjoyment. No wonder so many people say no to nog.
A proper final product, done DiNunzio’s way, will be poured at the bar at Rex tonight – his personal interpretation of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s recipe, involving heavy cream and half-and-half cold-infused with winter spices and aromatics, then crowned with an iced gingerbread candy cane.
Find good nog here
DiNunzio and Emmanuelle’s Esmon – she’ll serve options like “Nog a la Thomas,” bartending legend Jerry Thomas’ 1862 recipe using cognac and Jamaica rum – aren’t the only local bartenders boarding the nog train this holiday season.
At Sassafras, McCoy’s guys will produce their version, featuring a split base of bourbon and SNAP, the gingersnap-like liqueur from Philly’s Art in the Age. They go so far as to use a stand mixer to whip their egg whites with sugar into an airy meringue.
Starting Monday and running through the new year, Vincent Stipo of Rittenhouse’s a.bar will accommodate all nog lovers with his rum and/or bourbon-cognac variations, which also require some elegant culinary processes, served cold. (The temperature argument is a topic of some debate among nog lovers, but for the record, all these bartenders swear by cold nog.)
According to Stipo, an issue as simple as portion size contributes to negative feelings toward nog. Whether you’re a sugar-crazed kid or an overzealous ugly-sweater-wearing adult, chugging a Viking-size mug of the stuff can very well lead to upset stomachs – and ruined-for-life alcoholic perceptions.
Moderation is the key to enjoyment and, hopefully, shifting attitudes in the War on Eggnog. “You always want to leave people wanting one more sip,” Stipo said.
30 COCKTAILS SO STUNNING, THEY DOUBLE AS DECOR
We especially love the look of #24.
Warm weather! IT’S FINALLY HERE ALL OVER THE COUNTRY, MAYBE — LIKE, REAL SOON! After you shove your puffy coats in suitcases and hide them away in a dark corner never to be seen until the cold returns, go sit outside and have a drink with your friends. Many, many of these drinks!
24. Steam 75
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the following ingredients: 1 1/2 ounces Reyka Vodka, 3/4 ounce Art in the Age Rhubarb Tea Organic Liqueur, 3/4 ounce lime juice, and 1/2 ounce strawberry puree. Shake and strain into a chilled coup. Top with 1 ounce Brut Champagne. Garnish with a sprig of lavender.
It was quite a festive night aboard the The Hornblower Infinity Cruise Ship as the Village Voice held their 2nd Annual Holiday Spirits Tasting Event.Thirty distilleries, wineries and more from New York and beyond set sail for an hour-long harbor cruise. Upon entry to the ticketed event, guests were treated to a souvenir tasting glass, live music, and complimentary hors d’oeuvres. DJ Tim Martell entertained the crowd on the main and mid decks, while live jazz quartet, Blue Vipers of Brooklyn, performed all evening in theSlow & Low Lounge on the ship’s top deck.
Along with the distilleries showcasing their spirits, the event boasted three specialty bars the above mentioned Slow & Low Lounge, the Asahi Beer Bar, and the It’s Rum Time Bar by Rums of Puerto Rico (pictured below)
Our first stop was to Scorpion Mezcal, a Mexican Mescal, and their Hot Smokin’ Chocolate cocktail. We loved the combination of the Mescal’s smokiness and the sweet, creamy taste of the hot chocolate. A definite addition to our cocktail recipe list.
The next stop was to Philadelphia-based, Art in the Age Craft Spirits, who blew us away with their 80 proof, organic neutral spirits made from botanicals such as Sage, Ginger, Rhubarb, etc. We devoured their Rootnog cocktail (|a great take on the traditional eggnog), something we don’t mind having again and again.
After Art in the Age Craft Spirits, it was on to the delicious and exotic Sorel Artisanal Liqueur, one of the spirit brands local to NYC (It’s Brooklyn-based). The Sorel drink has always been a favorite of ours and we relished in enjoying this Hibiscus plant spirit both hot and cold.
From there, it was on to Balsalt, Colorado-based, Woody Creek Distillers’s 100% potato vodka and their delicious Moscow Mule cocktail. we’d describe this vodka as very smooth but with a slight bite, it is after this cocktail that we needed a water break.
From vodka, it was on to Gin, specifically Brooklyn-based, Greenhook Ginsmiths, and their array of vibrantly packaged Gins. This is usually our kryptonite, but we decided to indulge in their Plum 75 cocktail. It was delicious but Gin still remains our tread lightly list.
Next it was on to the stunning bottles and ultra smooth vodka from Blat Vodka, a Barcelona-based spirit who prides themselves on purity. Our quick shot of this crisp vodka proved that the pure look of packaging is not just for show.
Our next stop was to Owney’s Rum, another Brooklyn local and their Smells Like Teen Spirit cocktail; rums are our go-to spirit and we love a good white rum. Owney’s definitely captured our heart and taste buds. We wanted to give other spirits a chance to woo us, so this was the only other rum we visited that night
Although we took another break and passed on the Ten-Ten Mule cocktail, we were captivated by Cooperstown Distillery and the very cool shape of theirAbner Doubleday “Double Play” bottle. A great gift for baseball fans who love vodka, the baseball shaped decanter is hand-blown and features the 108 stitches present on real baseballs.
Our break led us to the Whole Foods and their decadent Shipwreck Sundae made with one of our favorites, Talenti Gelato. This treat was a much needed escape from the onslaught of delicious cocktails we’d been treated to at this event.
From there on, we made stops to Tuthilltown Spirits, Van Brunt Stillhouse Whiskey, Barefoot Wine & Bubbly, Breuckelen Distilling, Tanteo Tequila, and ended our drinking at Death’s Door Spirits…..so very appropriate to how we were feeling. The amazing this about this event, aside from the heavy sampling of these wonder spirits, is the fact that a portion of the proceeds from Holiday Spirits ticket sales went to support Lifebeat, the leading national nonprofit dedicated to educating America’s youth (13–29) about HIV/AIDS prevention. If you love discovering new cocktails and want to help great causes, we suggest you keep an eye out for the 3rd Annual Village Voice’s “Holiday Spirits” Tasting Event next year.