Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve Party Ideas!

Click on over to for some of my fun and fabulous New Year's Eve cocktail party ideas. (Party hats optional). Don't forget to take some photos of your soiree to share here on our blog!
Posted by Jordan Catapano

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thirsty Thursday: Classic Champagne Creations

New Year's Eve is two nights away and a great bottle of champagne will likely be your bar's main attraction. Here are a few of my favorite classic cocktail recipes that are sure to please your guests:

A few drops of lemon juice
1 teaspoon triple sec
Splash brandy
Splash Calvados
Fill glass with champagne

Champagne Cocktail
1 sugar cube
1-2 dashes of Angostura bitter
Fill glass with champagne

French 75
Splash lemon juice
2-3 drops of simple syrup
Dash of grenadine
Splash gin
Fill glass with champagne

Kir Royale
1 teaspoon creme de cassis
Fill glass with champagne
Garnish with lemon twist

Monte Carlo
Splash lemon juice
Splash white creme de menthe
Splash gin

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Light Dinner: Chinese BBQ Lettuce Cups

When you cannot take another day of rich left-overs, make this delicious chicken lettuce cup recipe. It's light, low calorie, and simple to make. There may no longer be any extended family to impress, but that's just the point.

1 pound chicken cut into small chunks
2 cups shiitake mushrooms
4 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cans water chestnuts, chopped
3 scallions, chopped
4 tablespoons hoisin
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 large iceberg lettuce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Heat the oil in a sauce pan. Cook the chicken with the garlic and scallions until the chicken begins to cook through. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the lettuce. Cut the iceberg lettuce in half and peel away pieces for cups. Scoop the chicken ingredients into the lettuce and serve.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dear Blog, Happy 1st Birthday

365 days, 237 posts & 1 book

5 Deal-Breaker Gifts for the Bar

You give me one of these items as a gift and our relationship is over. I'm not even kidding.

1. The battery operated wine opener goes against every grain in my mixologist's body. God forbid you should have to work just a tiny bit hard for what you want in life. Are we so afraid of failure? Or is it fatigue? Here a few comparable items in my opinion:

          • leaf-blowers
          • clap operated lights
          • premixed cocktails in bottle
          • diet pills
          • GPS systems

2. The ultimate rite of passage into adulthood is being old enough to drink. Being old enough to drink means that you are way, way, way too old to play with dolls. So putting a scarf and a knit cap on a wine bottle is freaky. You arrive at my door with a dressed up pinot and I'll pretend we've never met.

3. I don't want pictures on my Band-Aids, characters on my bed sheets, or cartoon people on my socks. So I sure as hell don't want any of that insanity on my shot glass. I want my friends to be hilarious, not the vessel from which I drink. If you find yourself at an airport gift shop, staring at a wall of "collectable" shot glasses in the shape of taxis and Statues of Liberties, do not think if me. I really, truly, don't want it and will no longer value our friendship as much.

4. Because no.

5. Ask yourself this:
          • would you drink from the same receptacle that you could wash a load of dishes in? Or a small pet?
          • would you consider an entire cake a normal serving?
          • do you find yourself describing useless, tasteless, and unimaginative crapola as "cute" before buying it only to store the item in your garage with all that other "cute" "stuff" you've purchased because one day you're sure you'll neeeeed it?
Awesome. If you've answered yes to any of these questions then a giant wine glass that holds an ENTIRE BOTTLE OF WINE is going to make you very, very happy.  Give it to me and I will promptly regift it before you can say, "Isn't it cute?"

Monday, December 19, 2011

Jordan's Book Club: Fortytude by Sarah Brokaw

Book: Fortytude by Sarah Brokaw
Price: $23.99

At BlogHer 2011 I was invited to attend a special talk with Sarah Brokaw, author of Fortytude. I didn't expect to gain new insight into my own life, as 40 still feels like a long way off. But what became clear as I began reading the book a few days after hearing the author speak is that Fortytude is less about turning 40 or 50 or 60, as the subtitle implies, and more about preparing for those major, inevitable transitions in life that we are guaranteed to experience. Whether it's the loss of a loved one, or a battle with cancer, or an epic career challenge, Brokaw advises that a woman's grace, connectedness, accomplishments, sense of adventure, and spirituality will see her through difficult times.

The women Brokaw has interviewed for this book share a message in their stories that will resonate with women as young as 21 and as old as 101. At the heart of each of their experiences is the importance of seeing the big picture during difficult times and not getting so caught up in your own problems that you lose sight of what matters. I love Brokaw's upbeat writing and honest attempt (and success) to the perspective of women from all walks of life.

I choose a sparkling wine to pair with this book because of Brokaw's discussion of the "sparkling moments" in life. These are moments when a woman decides to approach her "problem" with fresh eyes, a new attitude, and a positive outlook. And what helps with all of that in my opinion? Bubbly!

This particular champagne stood out for me for a thematic reason: its pink wrapper. With the female-centric nature of the book, a champagne with a loud feminine angle seemed like the obvious choice. Enjoy.

Francis Ford Coppola Winery
Sofia: Blanc de Blancs

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thirsty Thursday: Spiced Rum Soy Chai

Spiced Rum, Soy, Chai Tea
Tuck in on the couch with a cozy blanket, a good book, and a hot cup of very special chai tea. Thanks to hosts Kim G. and Ashley Arrington on AWOP Radio, I have two variations of a delicious original drink. One version requires mint and the other, chipotle. Each ingredient adds such a unique flavor that I urge you to conduct your own taste test.

2 ounces chai tea
2 ounces spiced rum (heated)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 ounces vanilla soy (heated)
2 dashes of chipotle or 8 mint leaves
*soy chai is also very good!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

This Girl's HOT PICK of the WEEK

a haiku

enter stocking stuffers
representing the ending
so open a beer

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The New Rage: Private Mixology Parties

A recent at-home mixology bar
Goodbye chef, hello mixologist. Private cooking lessons have been replaced by exclusive in-home cocktail training for serial entertainers, newlyweds, and small groups of stay-at-home moms and CEOs. Yes, I am here to report that people have been seduced by the current mixology craze and are determined to recreate, at home, the drinks that bars and restaurants are expertly pouring.

Before you hire your personal mixologist to lure out your inner cocktailista, be clear about what you'd like to accomplish. Here are a few suggestions to consider before you book your special event:

  • Shop For Yourself Although you may be tempted to pay the mixologist to shop for and without you, I recommend that you tackle the grocery list on your own or tag along while she shops on your dime. When it's time to throw your first cocktail party as an "expert," you'll feel a lot more comfortable wondering the aisles of your local liquor emporium if you've already done it with a pro.
  • Choose a Theme No, not costumes (never ever ever). Decide whether all of the cocktails will be rum based, holiday themed, skinny drinks, etc. It will give the evening a focus and leave guests feeling confident in one, small area of mixology.
  • Invite a Small Group Squash your desire to invite the entire office because in education, small class size is key. Too large of a group will change the classroom setting to a party atmosphere which the teacher will not be happy about. Figure out how many people can comfortably stand around your kitchen counter, table, or island, and go from there. 
  • Focus on the Culinary An evening like this has nothing to do with intoxication and everything to do with taste. Prepare your guests for an adventure in the culinary arts and an amazing new approach to the cocktail.
  • Ask for a Menu Your guests can't exactly take home the leftovers but they can leave with a copy of the evening's menu. Ask the mixologist to prepare individual cards with each drink name, the ingredients, and the step-by-step directions to give out as a parting gift. Your friends will be eternally grateful for one little slip of paper.
  • Do-It-Yourself If a private tutorial isn't in the budget, our book sure is! Chapter 13, titled Cocktail Party 101, will walk you through the steps of shopping for, setting up, and planning out a fabulous soiree. Assign some friends a few bottles to buy, then teach yourselves the tricks of the trade. And when you create a bunch of award-winning, tantalizing new cocktails, we've got just the blog for you to brag all about it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Non-Fiction Friday: Check Swap

The customer is not always right. Sometimes the customer is a lying, conniving, thief. And to let a lying, conniving thief believe that she is right is to do a disservice to humanity.

It was a Monday night and I was training a new bartender. The new girl had her cocktails down but the complicated computer system was throwing her off her A-game. She was nervous, and a bit frazzled, over-pouring martinis and breaking two wine glasses. My objective was to sit on the sidelines and let her run the show to get rid of those jitters. She needed to prepare for the demands of a Saturday night shift when nerves would be the death of her.

At about 8:00 p.m. only two couples were left at the bar. Couple A had been drinking for a few hours and Couple B was half-way through their first round of beer. After Couple A paid up and went to their table to dine, the bartender realized that she had made an unfortunate mistake. Couple A had received Couple B's bill, paying a $12.00 tab (and leaving a $1.00 tip) instead of a $65.00 bill.

If I hadn't been perched at the end of the bar observing every rude demand for more wasabi peas, every under-the-breath condescending remark about the rookie's mistakes, and every obnoxious attention-seeking laugh from the female equation of Couple A, I may have handled the situation differently. But I witnessed the woman pick up the check and visually dissect it. She knew. She saw it. But she said nothing.

Politely, with an apology for interrupting, I introduced myself at their table and explained that they had been given the wrong check. I set down the cash they'd left along with the correct bill.

Without even a glance down the woman blurted, "But we paid for the check that she gave us." I explained that the error had been caught before the bill was settled and that I would be back in a few minutes to collect payment on the correct amount. She snapped back with, "I'm not paying a new bill."

I wasn't cranky or over-worked. I didn't hate my job or the customers who depended on me for a pleasant evening out. But I was sick of people displaying a sense of entitlement simply because they were willing to spend a buck.

When I returned to the table the man wouldn't make eye contact with me and had slipped lower into the booth. The woman had her arms crossed and sneered, "I'm not paying a new check."

I took a deep breath and calmly said, "then I suggest you go ahead and leave."

Their jaws dropped. "Well I know the owner!" she said. "So do I," I responded.

She snatched her purse and stood up, jostling the table hard enough to cause the water glasses to spill and for other diners to tune into a conversation more interesting than their own.

On Couple A's way to the front door, the woman loudly announced, "I'm never coming back here again." "That's great news," I said, determined to get the last word.

As I watched them stomp down the street I felt no regret. In the battle against the discourteous, the uncivil, and the brash, I had won.

-Jordan Catapano

Thursday, December 8, 2011

This Girl's Holiday Gifts

Another package of books and t-shirts out the door for the holidays! Get yours today by going to our online store.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Festive Christmas Tree Ornaments

For your next holiday cocktail party, use a little tree for your table or bar centerpiece and decorate the branches (or maybe I should say twigs) with these miniature ornaments from Sur La Table.

All of these tiny tree trimmings are hand-painted glass and "traditionally crafted" in Poland and Germany.  Take advantage of the 30% holiday sale happening now and stock up for your upcoming events.

Warning: Not appropriate for Barbie Dolls under the age of 21.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Jordan's Book Club: Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen

Book: Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen 

Joey Perrone, the protagonist of this book is one bad-ass woman and not in a cape and invisible airplane kind of way. She's tough, sassy, unbelievably determined to make a wrong right, and full of wit.

All the action starts on the first page of this book and I'm hesitant to even tell you what happens but since it's mentioned on the back book cover, I'll mention it here too. {spoiler alert} Joey is deliberately thrown overboard on giant cruise ship by her husband while on a love cruise celebrating their anniversary. He of course never imagines that she'll actually survive the fall, the waves, the cold, and the sharks, but as the ex-Co-Captain on her college swim team, and a woman full of guts, she does. 

From that point on the story is a rapid page turner as Joey strives to uncover the reason for her husband's maliciousness and moronic actions.

This beer is perfectly paired with the book for two reasons. Obviously the title (didn't I get lucky with this one?). But the name of their beer was inspired by fresh regional water issues in many parts of the West. The Brewery joined forces with Jonathan Waterman and his non-profit "Save the Colorado" (you must credit them with a very memorable website) to protect the watersheds. Maybe Joey Perrone's husband Chaz had a different idea for the swamps of South Florida, but at least that's all fiction and buying this beer will support a real life cause. And Joey would love this beer.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Jordan Winery Competition

Got the news today that the photo I entered got the grand prize! Hooray! Visit their website here and check out all the amazing photos people submitted.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Author Jordan Catapano and LGBTQ Activist Ashley Arrington 12/04 by AWOP Radio | Blog Talk Radio

Author Jordan Catapano and LGBTQ Activist Ashley Arrington 12/04 by AWOP Radio | Blog Talk Radio

Tune in and listen to my interview about "This Girl Walks Into a Bar: A Women's Guide to Professional Bartending and Home Mixology." I'll discuss some great holiday drink ideas and suggestions for setting up your home bar for the upcoming cocktail party season.

My segment starts about 98 minutes in.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

This Girl's HOT PICK of the WEEK

I'm just going to come straight out and say that on the cheesy barometer, monogrammed glassware ranks somewhat high in goo. But you know what? Whatever. Because when you're desperate to find that perfect gift for the person that has ev-er-ree-thing, this fits the frickin' bill.

Monogram the initial of your friend's last name, your friend's pet's name, your friend's twitter handle. It really doesn't matter. At the end of the day, he or she will be genuinely thrilled to receive these classic Champagne glasses (set of four) from Williams-Sonoma for a marvelous $59.00.

P.S. Ignore the drab photo. In real life it's way more sparkly.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Easy Entertaining: Spinach & Chicken Souffle

When it comes to entertaining, I look for recipes that are not too complex, easy to prep, and delightfully aesthetic when served. This recipe, a variation on Giada's, takes about 30 minutes to prepare and make, and then an hour to bake. The aroma in the kitchen five minutes after the souffle goes into the oven is fantastic and the taste is equally wonderful

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, then grease a souffle dish generously with butter. Set aside.

Step One: In a sauce pan, melt half a stick of butter and mix with 1/4 cup of flour. Once it is well blended together add 1 & 1/2 cups of milk and continue to whisk until all the lumps are gone.

Step Two: Add to the mixture 2 cups of cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup of Parmesan, 2 cups of baby spinach leaves, 2 pounds of cooked, shredded chicken, three slices of white bread chopped into one-inch cubes, 6 egg yolks (save the whites), and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Step Three: Beat the six egg whites until firm with little peaks, then fold into the spinach and chicken mixture.

Step Four: Pour the mixture into the souffle dish and bake about an hour, until golden brown.

Serves 6 (or 4 really hungry people)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday Manners Rule #18: Champagne Opening Etiquette

  • During the entire process of opening a Champagne bottle, keep the cork pointed away from small children, crystal chandeliers, and your own eyeballs.
  • Use a clean napkin, dish towel, or paper towel to gently coax the cork from the bottle. It will help to catch the cork as it attempts to catapult across the atmosphere and also to soak up any unexpected bubbly overflow.
  • Do not use your bare hands to yank the cork out and never ever use your thighs to clamp the bottle steady.
  • Tip the glass to a 60* as pour the Champagne in to help prevent overflow.
  • Put the Champagne on ice and refill glasses frequently

Saturday, November 26, 2011

My Productive Surfless Saturday

The warm weather is here again and the collective giddiness that surfaces around my neighborhood during a summer day in November is contagious. Even at the crack of dawn people were out walking, running, gardening, and of course surfing.

When I pulled back into our garage it was that last group of early risers that inspired me to finally tackle a project I'd put off forever: relocating a surfboard. Storing it with the others in the rafters after hitting the waves only to take it down again every two weeks is just silliness.

I tied my hair up, located the 5/16 drill bit, charged up the Makita, dusted off the hooks I bought ages ago for this assignment, and got to work. It took ten minutes. I didn't even break one speck of sweat. But that's okay because that project led to another which led to another which went on and on until I realized lunch time had come and gone. Finally around 2:00 I threw together a sandwich and with a nice cold beer enjoyed the results of my wave of productivity.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

5 Winning Thanksgiving Hostess Gifts

If you're not hosting Thanksgiving dinner, and you didn't contribute something to the spread, you sure as hell better not show up empty handed. Here are five suggested hostess gifts to pick up on the drive over, and a little insurance that you'll get invited back again next year.

Hula O Maui Sparkling Pineapple Wine This delicious sparkling wine is a delightful aperitif or post-dinner cleanup reward. Made from 100% Maui pineapples the taste is light and refreshing and not at all syrupy sweet. And the bottle is so cute that your friends and family will be forced to say nice things even if they hate it.

Clear Creek Distillery Kirschwasser (Cherry Brandy) Where there's apple pie and pumpkin pie, there's vanilla ice cream. After you've appropriately ooo'd and awww'd over those traditional non-alcoholic desserts, try pouring cherry brandy over a heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream. The flavor of the brandy's sweet cherries boasts an "almond nose" and the combination of it all together is divine. So go ahead and give yourself one more reason to stuff your face.

Patron XO Cafe One of my favorite activities after the Thanksgiving meal is the group Scrabble game or Thursday's crossword puzzle. It always involves a rich cup of coffee with heavy cream, sugar, and a little sumpin' sumpin'. Try adding this coffee liqueur and let the games begin.

Lagavulin Single Malt Scotch After you've presented this bottle to the hostess prepare to catch her as she jubilantly leaps into the air and straddles your torso. This rich, golden single malt is laced with peat-smoke and an absolute treat for those who appreciate complex layers of flavor. For that annoying aunt who announces that scotch is "gross," try waving the bottle cap under her nose and watch her beg for mercy.

Clear Creek Williams Pear Brandy Best served chilled, this eau de vie de poire will perk up your pallet just when you think you never want to eat or drink again in your life. Cozy up to the fire, share what you're grateful for, and toast the end of Prohibition.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday Manners Rule #18: Tip on the Original, Not the Discount

Attention Bar & Restaurant Patrons,

When you receive a round on the house, or use a gift certificate, or flash your frequent drinker card, and your bill becomes lower than it should have been without the freebie/promo/discount you lucked out on, do not slight the bartender or server. Yes, your meal was free or cheap but that does not mean that the person making your night out enjoyable deserves any less. 

Look at the total of the amount owed before that number shrunk down and pony up on that.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Stylist's Trunk Show (and Cocktail Party!)

Cocktail parties are hard enough to pass up but when it includes jewelry, I'll be the first to RSVP. My friend Shannon just launched her business as an independent stylist for Stella & Dot, a fun and fashionable jewelry, handbag, and tote line. To introduce the newest collection to all her friends she threw a Saturday night cocktail party in the comfort of her beautiful Los Angeles home.

Her event was my first peek at the brand, and I was definitely impressed. The jewelry is delicate without looking fragile, and dressy without needing a ball gown to justify wearing it out of your closet.  I'm hoping that I wasn't the only one who strickly bought for um...herself.

Earlier in the day I helped Shannon prepare the cocktail she'd be serving: cranberry juice and vodka with a fresh mint simple syrup. She wanted something festive for the evening but also uncomplicated enough to serve without needing a bartender. As the hostess slash stylist, she would have more urgent issues than empty martini glasses. We polished up a beautiful beverage jar and positioned the cocktail in a central location. Drinking while shopping was never easier.

If the empty jar was any sign of the evening's success, Shannon's trunk show was a hit. Gorgeous jewelry paired with lovely libations is simply a winning combination.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Guest Video Post: Creative Cocktails from Australia

The itinerary to your Australian vacation cannot be properly planned without first taking a quick trip to Australia's Best Bars and Nightclubs website. Simply click on the cities you'll be visiting and discover the hottest bar, restaurant, live music, and DJ scene available.

For a peek at what some of the Australian mixologists are shaking up, take a look at this short video, courtesy of Barsand, and let us know what you think!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Starring...The Kitchen

Patch Crew Amanda and Stephan
I understood the perspective of a crazy stage mom while preparing my kitchen for a little film crew from AOL's Patch. My starlet needed to be well-prepared, glowing, and flawless. I'm positive that I put less attention into my appearance than hers since I spent over an hour restocking the wine racks, polishing the appliances, prepping the drink ingredients, and moving the bouquet of flowers around and around and around. For all I know my blouse was inside out but at least my kitchen looked good.

Patch Editor Amanda Salem arrived with her cameraman and they quickly set up shop. After some lighting adjustments and relocating the flowers  (I knew I picked a bad spot), we began filming. Amanda was an excellent bartender-in-training, taking direction very well and helping to create cocktails for the holidays: a Cranberry Mint Whiskey and an Apple Pie Martini.

The day was gone before I knew it, though that's just how it goes when you spend half of it making drinks and discussing the art of mixology. Cheers to bartending.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

This Girl's HOT PICK of the WEEK

Add this modern, stemless wine glass to your collection and upgrade the sophistication of your bar. Fellow tweeter @jjjmmmlll111 brought this website to our attention and we are forever indebted.  The Willows gifts are classy, high quality, and refreshingly unique. We guarantee you'll fall in love with more than a few of their items (and think you may become a fan of their blog). It's a perfect little online store for all your holiday shopping.

Saturday, November 12, 2011