Oct
15
2014

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Burritt Room + Tavern's Chameleon on the new fall menu

Burritt Room + Tavern’s Chameleon on the new fall menu

My Top Drink Articles: October 1-15

Photos and articles by Virginia Miller

From my numerous articles a week as Zagat Editor, I summarize and link to some of this coverage here – you can follow along on Twitter @ZagatSF, where I post daily, or on my own @ThePerfectSpot via Twitter or Facebook.

Wine

All-day dream cafe, LES CLOS, opens from Saison sommelier Mark Bright, serving impeccable French food & wines

Cocktails

CHARLIE PALMER’s BURRITT ROOM + TAVERN: New Chef’s Table with cocktail pairings

MARLOWE reopens in the former Coco500 space, now with cocktails

ALTA’s new cocktail & food pairing menu, new fall cocktails, house root beer and house made spirits

PATHOS, Berkeley’s Greek dining, wine and cocktail destination

Best Thing We Drank: New Fall Cocktails at BURRITT ROOM + TAVERN

Beer

MONK’s KETTLE REOPENS with sidewalk seating and new draft system

SF CRAFT BEER Festival

Alta's Conquistador on the fall menu

Alta’s Conquistador on the fall menu

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Oct
15
2014

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Whiskyfest 2014 – 8 Top Tastes

Article by Virginia Miller; photos from brand websites

It was another great year of whiskey, whisky and beyond (Cognac, gin, beer, etc.) at WhiskyFest San Francisco on October 3rd at the SF Marriott Marquis  – a massive whisk(e)y tasting event featuring distillers and brand ambassadors from around the world, held only in SF, NY and Chicago annually.

Charbay Release III

Charbay Release III

This year, here were my top 8 tastes, mostly from new releases.

1. Charbay Whiskey Release III from the Pilsner Collection
Marko Karakasevic has done it again with his stunning, complex Release III whiskey, in keeping with Release I and II, longtime favorites and game-changing American whiskies for me years ago. It is another (pricey) rarity — as is his incredible aged sipping rum, out later this fall.

2. Bowmore 23 year
Bowmore 15 year Darkest has long been one of my favorite Islay (read: peaty, smoky) whiskies, gorgeous in its balance and sophistication. The 23 year Bowmore keeps right in line with the distillery’s excellent line of Scotch, this one aged 23 years and finished in port butts for 6 months.

Octomore 6.1

Octomore 6.1

3. Wild Turkey Diamond
Though released in August, this special whiskey just arrived in San Francisco post-Whiskyfest, with only 11,000 cases worldwide. The man, the legend, Jimmy Russell, was at Whiskyfest SF again this year with his son and master distiller Eddie, who poured this special anniversary whiskey for us. It is a blend of 13 to 16 year old whiskeys from hand-selected barrels chosen by Eddie. It’s elegant, bright with fruit, subtly sweet, with caramel bourbon notes and gentle spice. It’s a beauty and a special tribute to Jimmy’s decades of distilling.

4. Bruichladdich’s Octomore 6.1
The Octomore releases are always fascinating each year, if not a push to the extremes of peat. This year’s Octomore 6.1 surprised me. I taste each edition annually and found this one more balanced than in years past. There’s a subtlety to the 6.1 that undergirds all that peat. A standout I’d like to revisit.

tullibardine-25yo5. Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy
Named after the master distiller at New Midleton, a beautiful distillery I visited in 2011 (home to production of Jameson, Redbreast, Green and Yellow Spot and numerous Irish whiskies), Barry Crockett Legacy is a limited release each year since 2011 and this year was a lovely edition, showing off the nuances of Irish whiskey with notes of bright peach contrasting with whispers of hay, citrus and toffee.

6. Tullibardine 25 year
This malt-forward Scotch line tends to be pretty soft across the board but each iteration gains complexity aged in different casks and wine barrels (like the interesting Sauternes-aged Scotch). Tullibardine 25 year is aged in ex-Jim Beam and Heaven Hill barrels, then in Burgundy Pinot Noir casks, finished in Pedro Ximenez (PX) and Oloroso sherry casks for 18 months. Those layers unfold as one sips, from sherry spice to vanilla and caramel notes of the bourbon casks.

7. 40 Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve
We don’t get enough of the better Canadian whiskies imported, it’s true. So it’s nice when we do and Forty Creek is one such producer, thanks to winemaker-distiller John Hall. 40 Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve is double barrel aged, with vanilla, nutty notes and a long finish, while the new Forty Creek Copper Pot Reserve exhibits rye spice but is smooth and rounded from the wine barrels it is aged in.

8. BenRiach Authenticus 25 year
This rare BenRiach 25 year release is subtly peated, sweet and herbaceous, soft yet fascinating, a fine member of an underrated Scotch line.

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Oct
01
2014

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New cocktails at La Urbana in celebration of their 1 year anniversary

New cocktails at La Urbana in celebration of their 1 year anniversary

My Top Drink Articles: September 16-30

Photos and articles by Virginia Miller

From my numerous articles a week as Zagat Editor, I summarize and link to some of this coverage here – you can follow along on Twitter @ZagatSF, where I post daily, or on my own @ThePerfectSpot via Twitter or Facebook.

Whisk(e)y

Seminars not to miss and legendary whisk(e)y figures at this year’s WHISKYFEST on October 3

Cocktails

2 new OAKLAND COCKTAIL destinations, from Tiki-meets-Africa to an art deco Uptown hangout

New cocktails to celebrate LA URBANA’s one year anniversary

Top cocktails on HAKKASAN’s new fall menu

Mezcal and tequila collection & cocktails at AGAVE MEXICAN in a HEALDSBURG strip mall

Not your average football drinks: COCKTAILS at the 49er’s new LEVI STADIUM

Trendspotting: refreshing FLIP COCKTAILS

HECHO opens in the Castro with Mexican-American food (with a Tex Mex slant) & tequila/mezcal cocktails

Beer

SCHROEDER’S OKTOBERFEST Events

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Oct
01
2014

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Facundo Rums

The FACUNDO Rum Collection in CA This Fall

Article by Virginia Miller

As I was at first, you may get sidetracked by the brand Bacardi. But as just with any spirits house that may be known for churning out mass-produced spirits, particularly one like Bacardi that has been around for over 150 years formerly located in Cuba (with US headquarters based in Miami and international headquarters in Bermuda), they have a special selection of barrels aging for years.

In 2013 they released their The FACUNDO™ Rum Collection in tribute to Bacardi’s original master blender, Don Facundo Bacardi Masso, by his great-great grandson, Facundo L. Bacardi. The family decided to share some of their premium barrels in this collection which was conceptualized at their 150th anniversary party. It was released in Miami and NY last year (nowhere else in the world) and this fall in California. SF and LA are now the only other two cities in the world getting all four of these rare rums.

It wasn’t until I tasted the rums, however, that I experienced the uniqueness of them both for Bacardi and in the rum world. As you can see from the photo above (courtesy of FACUNDO Rum), these are luxury, sipping rums and the striking, thoughtfully designed bottles reflect this. Manny Oliver, the head master blender who has worked for Bacardi for nearly 40 years, was here in SF walking me through the rums, explaining that some of the 300 hand-selected barrels used in these blends, being over 20 years old, have lost so much “angels’ share” due to Caribbean heat that there’s as little as 5% of the rum left in the barrels, contributing to the scarcity of the liquid.

Hear are my thoughts on all four, which you can look for at rum bars like Smuggler’s Cove in SF and La Descarga in LA:

1. NEO™
Seeking to be a premium white sipping rum, NEO (meaning new) is a blend of rums aged up to eight years, then filtered (second charcoal mellowing) prior to blending to remove color, although there is still a gentle blond hue. It’s smooth but not flavorless. Almond and floral notes shine, the rum bright with fruity wood. It tasted clean and bracing in a Rum Old Fashioned.

2. EXIMO™
If forced to choose, EXIMO (meaning “to free” in Latin) may be my favorite of the 4, both in taste and its stately bottle designed to represent the sun’s rays. It’s a more medium-bodied dark rum — the only one in the Collection blended before aging in a barrel for 10 years. It’s layered and buttery, complex with earthy dark chocolate and a lingering nuttiness.

3. EXQUISITO™
EXQUISITO means exquisite and this was the most elegant and even softest of the four rums, though a dark rum. It’s a blend of rums aged seven years as well as some aged 23 years. The final blend is then finished in sherry casks, imparting sherry-like notes of raisins, spice and toasted nuts.

4. PARAISO™
PARAISO (meaning “paradise”) blends the Bacardi family’s oldest and finest barrels of rums aged up to 23 years, then blended, then rested in French XO Cognac casks, some more than 60 years old. The result is medium-bodied, refined rum that exhibits plenty of almond, oak, chocolate, toasted caramel and nuts.

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Sep
15
2014

Imbiber

Lolo's new playing card cocktail menu

Lolo’s new playing card cocktail menu

My Top Drink Articles: September 1-15

Photos and articles by Virginia Miller

From my numerous articles a week as Zagat Editor, I summarize and link to some of this coverage here – you can follow along on Twitter @ZagatSF, where I post daily, or on my own @ThePerfectSpot via Twitter or Facebook.

Cocktails

LOLO’s artistic new PLAYING CARD COCKTAIL MENU

NOPA’s two cocktail menus within a cocktail menu

Cocktails on the new TRICK DOG MENU

Cocktailing in ALAMEDA

Spirits

ST. GEORGE RELEASES 3 NEW SPIRITS for Fall

Juice

My new cold press juice favorite, UPTOWN JUICE

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Sep
15
2014

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Photo Source: Ben Krantz

Photo Source: Ben Krantz

St. George Spirits Releases 3 New Spirits

Article by Virginia Miller [ran in Zagat SF on September 3, 2014]

We love our St. George Spirits. From the rock and roll attitude of their tasting room and tours in a WWII hangar housing their Alameda distillery (reservations for tours and tastings here) to their fantastic gins, brandies, whiskies, rum, absinthe, coffee liqueur and eaux de vie, they’ve been one of the great American distilleries since the 1980s. This fall ushers in three new releases, all limited edition and sure to go quickly, hitting local shelves and local bars September-October (the whiskey will be available within the next week or two, the brandy and rum not till mid-Oct.) Whether you’re a rum, whiskey or brandy fan, St. George has you covered.

1) St. George California Reserve Apple Brandy ($60)

15 different varieties of local NorCal apples go into this gorgeous sipping brandy based off a special apple brandy they did exclusively for NYC’s famed fine dining temple Eleven Madison Park a couple years ago. That was unaged and now it is aged. Nothing could be more appropriate for fall.

2) St. George Single Malt, Lot 14 ($80)

St. George continues to turn out wonderful whiskies, year-after-year. This time it’s round 14 — it’s one of our favorites of all their single malt releases. Master distiller Lance Winters started aging some of this whiskey 15 years ago in his early days at St. George and it’s blessed with a lingering elegance and subtle spice.

3) St. George California Reserve Rum ($80)

We’re big fans of St. George’s wonderfully funky California Agricole Rum, done in the French Martinique style of rum (or rhum) — which means made from fresh sugar cane juice instead of molasses, allowing the rum’s grassy, lively properties to shine. Their rum has been aged for 3 years in French oak barrels and the results still exhibit that bold funk with a generous touch of oak.

Where to Buy: K&L, Healthy Spirits, Cask, Plumpjack Noe, Bi-Rite, Jug Shop

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Sep
15
2014

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3 Notable New Piscos

Article by Virginia Miller

One of my most unforgettable international distilling adventures was exploring — and even being part of — pisco production and blending in Peru with Encanto Pisco. I had already loved the spirit for years but fell even more in love after those travels. There are not a slew of pisco releases/imports in a year as there may be with other spirits, but there are some notable ones recently.

PISCO PAYET’s SINGLE VARIETAL TORONTEL ($32.95)

Payet Pisco Torontel Pisco Payet is a lovely import from Perú with an award-winning acholado (pisco blend) and Quebranta pisco from a family that studied production methods in wine (in California and Argentina) and French distilleries in Cognac and Bordeaux, to refine their pisco production.

My favorite of their three piscos, released last fall, is Pisco Payet Torontel, an herbaceous, floral pisco that goes down silky-smooth, showing off the sophisticated qualities of the Torontel grape.

Where to Buy: Beltramo’s, Cask, Blackwell’s Wines & Spirits

PISCO PORTON’s QUEBRANTA & TORONTEL SINGLE VARIETAL PISCOS ($39.99)

Pisco PortonAs the biggest brand in pisco in terms of dollars and influence, Pisco Porton’s acholado (blended pisco) can be found the world over. This fall, they are releasing — for the first time — two single varietal, estate-grown piscos that are the same price as their acholado ($39.99), despite the additional cost of producing Torontel specifically.

Their Quebranta exhibits those Quebranta grape qualities I love: earth and green notes, with hints of chocolate and sweet, spiced pear. The Torontel is elegant: bright and tropical on the nose, smelling of baked fruit in the sun, while its floral, blossom aspects shine to taste.

I recently had the privilege of an hour chatting with master distiller Johnny Schuler over — what else? — pisco, about the 120 people he employees, including mostly female distillers. He notes, “The origins of pisco are purity,” a quality you taste in both of Porton’s clean (but far from bland) new releases.

Where to Buy: Jug Shop, Swirl on Castro, D&M

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Sep
01
2014

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Ramen Shop beauties, like this rye and beer cocktail

Ramen Shop beauties, like this rye, cherry and beer cocktail

My Top Drink Articles: August 16-31

Photos and articles by Virginia Miller

From my numerous articles a week as Zagat Editor, I summarize and link to just some of this coverage here – you can follow along on Twitter @ZagatSF, where I post daily, or on my own @ThePerfectSpot via Twitter or Facebook.

Cocktails/Spirits

The TOP 5 BEER COCKTAILS to Drink Now, from SF to Oakland and Napa

The NEW COCKTAIL MENU at OAKLAND’s RAMEN SHOP

WINE & COCKTAIL Highlights at THE COMMISSARY in the Presidio

Cider

DEVOTO ORCHARDS CIDER from family-run apple orchards in SEBASTOPOL

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