Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Product Spotlight: Qream

Qream was named for the royalty in all of us ladies and the taste lives up to its namesake. Rich, creamy, and extremely flavorful, Qream is the perfect after dinner drink or girl's weekend cocktail. Available in sweet peach or strawberry, it's delicious over ice or mixed with vodka or rum.

What stands out about this particular product is the lovely glass bottle it is served in. You will probably want to hang on to this feminine vessel long after it's empty (though a glass top would be my choice).

It doesn't come as a surprise that this new liqueur was created by Diageo and Grammy Award-winning artist Pharrel. Diageo's Baileys liqueur has been a hit for decades, defining the ready-to-serve dessert drink. Pharrel's involvement adds a sensual element and makes the post-dinner cocktail relevant to a younger generation.

In my opinion, Qream is must-have for the bar of the modern hostess. I'm a firm believer in being prepared for those last minute cocktail parties and this cocktail fits the bill. It requires no mixing, measuring, or muddling,  and despite the size of the pour, turns out perfect with each serving.

Surprise your friends and satisfy their sweet tooth with this delicious, decadent new liqueur.

This Girl Walks Into a Bar does not receive paid compensation for any products featured or reviewed in the blog or on the website. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cowboys in California

I was at a wedding once in Modesto, California when a girl from New York City said she hated California. It was her first time visiting the state.

The wedding took place on a gorgeous almond farm in an old barn lit by while candles and strings of twinkling lights. You couldn't have a imagined a more magnificent place to be on a September evening.

I'll admit that no matter how many Starbucks litter the corners of the Lower East Side, NY will always be cooler than CA. After living in both states I'm okay with this. But to "hate" California, to reject it with a mere sneer and a hair toss is infuriating.

I pressed Miss New York on her reasoning and she came back with, "Everyone is so fake and has fake boobs."

This conversation came to mind a few weeks ago when I was at an old bar in Solvang, California, where the fakest thing I came across was the "All-Natural" lavender air freshener in the lavatory.

The bar's ceiling is covered with real dollar bills. The drinks are made with the real stuff and stiffer than the logs the bar is built with. The regulars are the nicest, most genuine folks you could hope to meet. And this is in California.

My favorite, realest moment came with my cowboy dance. The wedding party had infiltrated this local joint and were slightly outnumbered by couples in flannel shirts and cowboy boots. I was sitting with a friend next to a handsome couple in their 50's at one of the picnic tables in the dance hall. My friend leaned over and bravely asked the man to teach us a few steps.

Next thing I knew I was being whirled around on a saw dust dance floor feeling (not dancing) like Ginger Rogers with Fred Astaire.

Everyone associated with the wedding was a long way from our usual California living. Everything around us looked different from what we were used to. But it didn't feel all that different. Maybe that's because we were still in California, a state where fake is only in the eye of the beholder.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thirsty Thursday: Apple Sour (Variation)

Fall feels close so it's time to start planning some September drinks. An Apple Sour seemed appropriate for those starting school who may be sour about it. This cocktail is a variation of the traditional recipe but just as good.

2 ounces whiskey
1/2 ounce apple juice
1/2 ounce lemonade
2 dashes orange bitters

Shake hard and strain into a lowball. Garnish with a cherry or lemon twist.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday Manners Rule #1: Be Friendly

The most important rule of all for any bartender, is to be friendly. One never knows the reasons a person comes in to have a drink. Maybe it's to celebrate a birthday, maybe it's to ease the loss of a loved one. Regardless of the kind of day you've have, be friendly, courteous, and kind to your customers. It truly is the Golden Rule.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Simple Sunday Brunch

I have firsthand experience in over-doing what should be a simple Sunday brunch. What starts off as coffee and bagels turns into breakfast casseroles, grandmother's coffee cake, homemade Bloody Marys, and many other dishes, producing enough plates and silverware to fill two dishwashers.

For those of you who entertain frequently, I think I may have the Sunday Brunch solution. Less is more with a few simple adjustments.

Bagels and Cream Cheese
The Basics: Plain bagels and cream cheese
A Little Extra: A variety of bagels, lox, capers, olives, sliced onions and tomatoes. Plain cream is a must and a flavored option is also nice. Just don't buy anything fat-free.

The Basics: A carton of orange juice and low-priced champagne
A Little Extra: Fresh orange or tangerine juice is important. You don't need to hand squeeze... just buy it hand-squeezed from your local market. And instead of serving it from the container, transfer the juice into a glass pitcher. Champagne doesn't need to be top shelf but don't buy the least expensive either.

Pretty Plates and Napkins
The Basics: Paper plates and paper napkins
A Little Extra: If anyones asks if I was the one who told you to buy paper plates I'll deny it. But for this occasion, go for it. Purchase colorful, thick paper plates. It adds to the festiveness of your brunch and makes for a super easy clean-up. You can counter your un-greenness with cloth napkins and compost the paper plates if they're not too caked with cream cheese.

Coffee and Creamers
The Basics: Coffee, milk and sugar
A Little Extra: Good coffee (go for a stronger roast) and a variety of creamers encourages second cups and longer visits. Opt for some half n' half and a few flavors like French Vanilla or Hazelnut.

5. Fresh Fruit
The Basics: Store bought pre-cut fruit
A Little Extra: It's time consuming to make your own fruit bowl but it's the only way to guarantee that the fruit isn't mealy or old. Choose seasonal fruits with a variety of shapes and colors. Using a melon baller isn't mandatory but I do think it adds a nice touch.

Let me know how your next Sunday Brunch goes and snap some photos. I'll include them in an upcoming blog post on brunches.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Non-Fiction Friday: A First Day on the Job

When I moved to Friday nights at a bar where there was only ever one bartender, despite a line out the door for a drink, I was nervous. Everywhere else I had ever worked there was more than one person running around, taking orders, and making drinks like a crazy person.

I passed the test with the Sunday, Monday, Tuesday shift. The regulars said I could stick around a while and the owner seemed pleased with my sales. This meant I was moving to the money shift: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Brutal. Long. Zero weekend. But oodles of cash and an opportunity I sure as hell wasn't going to pass up.

Everyone told me it was going to be kuh-razy, and that I better be ready. So ready I was. I uncorked 6 house Merlots, 3 house Cabs, and 5 house Chardonnays. I presalted half a dozen margarita glasses, made extra Bloody Mary mix, and cut enough lemons and limes to last a week. The waitress staff thought I was a freak.

But I was ready.

And good thing because you know what?  Is was so busy I didn't leave the bar for six hours straight and sustained myself on salted almonds and Maraschino cherries. It was also the biggest payday I'd ever seen.

Before long I wasn't popping wine bottles before we opened and slicing through the entire lime supply. I was cruising along in a job I loved. But those first day jitters are hard to forget and sadly...hard to duplicate.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Thirsty Thursday: Mint Ginger Juice

This drink may be a little labor intensive but the payoff is huge. If you can knock out the prep work well before your guests arrive then putting the cocktail together is easy. The Mint Ginger Juice is light, zesty, and hard to sip slowly.

2 ounces rum
1 tablespoon mint syrup
1 teaspoon fresh ginger juice
1 squeeze lemon wedge
Splash tonic water (or soda)

Prep Work
Finely chop one package of mint and add to a measuring pitcher. Add equal parts water and sugar to make the simple syrup. Keep in mind that the longer the mint marinates the better, and the less water you use the stronger the mint syrup will be. If you are going to make more than 6 drinks, buy several packages of mint. For this recipe use about 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar. I usually cheat on the sugar a little and use less (shhhh). Muddle the mint, water, and sugar and set aside.

The ginger is the tough part. I tried to make ginger juice with my juicer but it jammed the machine so I use a garlic press (if anyone has a faster technique you better share it). Peel one piece of ginger root then slice it into cubes. Press the ginger like you would garlic and collect the juice in a small bowl. Set the bowl aside.

Slice a few lemons into wedges and remove the seeds.

Now you are ready for your guests! Just layer the ingredients and garnish with a mint leaf or lemon twist. And try making a few of the drinks without using measuring tools. I guarantee that your drink will still be perfect.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Second Book? What's the Deal?!

The question of the night at our book launch party was, "So what's your next book?" Shocking, right? It's like asking the mom with the newborn when she'll be delivering a sibling. Or minutes after the Super Bowl, interrogating the winning quarterback on the chances of taking the title again next year. What the heck?

At first I just responded with a laugh, as surely it was a rhetorical question born out of an uncomfortable moment between two strangers. The next time a second book was mentioned I didn't laugh it away but tried out answering with, "soon." When the third person inquired about the next release I let my sister handle it and went to the bar for another tequila.

Just like in any other industry, you're only as good as your last deal. Damn. It.

I'm not completely freaking out or anything but those people definitely got into my head. In the morning I am no longer driven out of bed by the thought of a strong cup of coffee and a quiet home but by a few statements that flash over and over like a cursor on a blank page:

"PR is pointless unless you've got another project coming"
"The next book is where all the money is"
"People may never find your first book until you write the second one"
"This book is clearly part of a trilogy. What are the next two about?"
"What's the vision for your brand?"

It's enough to drive me to more drinking.

Yes, there are two more cocktail books planned. But the only thing I've written are the titles. Can I just feel good about this one before I roll up my sleeves on the next? If I never write another book will pride in one be pointless? Does the term "writer" have an expiration date? Is there a secret way to channel a few of my favorite prolific authors: Barbara Kingsolver, John le Carre, and Carl Hiaasen?

For the moment, I'll work on finishing this French toast in front of me. And enjoying the coffee. And the quiet house. The second book will come eventually. But just not now.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tell It Tuesdays: Sonoma Wine Garden | Santa Monica

There's not a trace of the old Santa Monica Place mall on this rooftop foodery. Sonoma Wine Garden is an indoor outdoor restaurant and bar with a view of the ocean and pieces of central Santa Monica. It's casual yet sophisticated, and the type of place where you'll lose track of time.
I met up with three friends and had to stand at their bar table until a random stool opened up. The place was packed! Live music competed with the piped in songs but the singer was so impressive that I soon tuned out the Muzak. His rendition of Rufus Wainwright's Hallelujah was chilling. 
The wine selection isn't as huge as you would think for a wine garden, but their menu is so complete that I wasn't longing for other options. I settled with a Provenance Cabernet for $18 a glass. The second time around I went with a half glass for $10. What I didn't notice right away (and this was probably a good thing) is that there is a full bar. If wine isn't your thing, you will still enjoy this cheery open air dinner spot.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Monday Manners Rule #10: Give Out the Extra

Once in a while you may make slightly too much of a martini drink. After you've filled the customer's glass, instead of dumping the excess cocktail out, pour the extra drink into a shot glass or low ball, and serve it along with the martini.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

This Girl'S HOT PICK of the WEEK

Teraforma Whisky Stones
These Teraforma Whisky Stones are the best thing since ice. Perfect for whisky, scotch or tequila drinkers who want to avoid their favorite spirit becoming diluted with water. Put these stones in the fridge for at least an hour, and then set into your drink for a quick chilling effect.

They don't take up much room in the freezer, are easy to wash, and will provide a great conversation piece for any party.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Drinks inspired by "The Help"

The team at Snake Oil Cocktail Company created a few original drinks inspired by the new movie The Help. I was thrilled to be invited to a screening in San Diego and equally excited to sample some of these amazing cocktails during the after party:

The Skeeter
Sweet, strong, and a little spicy
1 oz. tequila
1 oz. triple sec
1/2 oz. cranberry
Finish with jalapeno-orange foam

The Aibilene
Subtle, smooth and Strong
1 1/4 oz. coffee liquor
1/2 oz. bourbon
1/4 oz. amaretti
1 oz. cream
1 dash coco nibb bitters


The Hilly
Sour and chilled, with a sharp twang
1 1/2 oz. applejack
1/2 oz. triple sec
1/2 oz. lemon juice
Fill with dry hard cider

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

San Diego Fun Day

Dear San Diego,

We love you! What better place to say you were born and raised than this town! Jocelyn and I feel like there is no better city to launch our book and hope that many of you come down to The Grove at Juniper and Vagabond Kitchen TONIGHT to help us celebrate.

I'm especially excited to be on FOX5 San Diego and KUSI San Diego this morning to talk about This Girl Walks Into a Bar and make a few drinks. You'll learn about skinny drinks, breakfast drinks, and about the most important tools for a home mixologist.

As soon as the shows are over I will post the recipes so that you can make them at home too! And when you do, please email us a photo of your drink so that we can post it on our site.

In the meantime, follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest drinks recipes, restaurant reviews, bartending tips, and much, much more.

Jordan and Jocelyn

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tell It Tuesdays: Indigo Grill | San Diego

Restaurant: Indigo Grill
1536 India Street
San Diego, CA 90272

Interior Swag: Corvette Diner was my favorite spot as a kid, so I had a feeling going into this place that I wouldn't be let down by the decor. Beautiful tiles and textiles cover the restaurant from wall to wall creating a comfortable environment. Gorgeous bar.

indigogrill_thumb.jpgDrink: The Mezcal Flight, a sampler of three tequilas for $14, reintroduced me to anejo tequila. I've been stuck on silver for way too long and had found a new favorite for my margaritas. Thanks Amy for taking the initiative and ordering that for me!

Service: Our server was delightful. He had possibly the best timing I've experienced, always appearing at the most appropriate times.

Food: Give me a slate of baked Brie covered in flaky dough and I'm the happiest woman around. Add a plate of nachos to the table coated with cheese, blacks beans and jalapenos and it's over.

Go-Back-Again-Ness: I cannot wait to go back! Maybe even this weekend actually. Love it!!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

This Girl's HOT PICK of the WEEK

Please. Can we just talk about how cute these are?? And can they make one in the shape of the Titanic? Or a thumb? Or...well, what do you think?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thirsty Thursday: Summer Picnic (New Drink!)

Today's drink was inspired by a weekend at our friend's Lake Arrowhead home in California. This cocktail is very light and extremely refreshing. You can even make a larger batch for a cooler and bring it along on your next picnic.

2 ounces vanilla vodka
1 ounce St. Germain
2 ounces tonic water
1 cup strawberries
1/2 lime

Step One: Slice the strawberries and put them into a shaker. Squeeze half a lime into the strawberries and muddle together until strawberries are mashed.

Step Two: Add vodka and St. Germain into the shaker and mix.

Step Three: Strain the mixture into a lowball filled with ice. Add in tonic water.

*For larger batches simply multiply each ingredient by the number of people in your party.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

BlogHer 2011 Purse Packing

I'm packing light for BlogHer. The only things going into my purse are the things my iPhone cannot provide. Yet. If I'm missing something important, let me know. Preparation is key.

1. Sara Happ Lip Slip This is the gloss that I will not leave home without. It looks good on my bare lips or over a thin layer of lip stick. It also seems to add a little fullness in an all natural kinda way.

2. Starbucks Via I drink a hot cup of Via extra bold French Roast in the morning and an iced glass of caramel coffee in the afternoon. It's SO yummy.

3. Lifesaver Breath Mints For all that coffee drinking.

4. Goody Ponytail Holder Almost as important as a brassiere.

5. Yes to Carrots This is a body cream but I use it on my face midday to moisturize and rejuvenate my skin. Wait...that sounded like an ad. But check out their company because every cream I've tried I've loved.

6. Business Cards Duh

7. iPhone Note taking, texting, tweeting, emailing, Angry Birding

8. Maker's Mark Look. I wrote a book about bartending and home mixology. I never know when I'll have to prove my merits. And a mini Maker's bottle is just so cute.

9. Safety Pin Emergency wardrobe malfunction rescuer, eyelash separater, makeshift cocktail toothpick.

10. Pen and Rhodia Notepad If for some reason my iPhone should run out of power, I have back up. Also good for note passing, doodling, and gum wrapping.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Monday Manners Rule #33: Don't Allow Drinks to Sit in Shakers

Don't ruin a martini while it's still in the shaker. Leaving it on ice for too long before you shake it will allow the ice to melt, causing the drink to become diluted.

If you're called away before you can properly finish making the martini, quickly strain the spirits into an empty glass until you can shake the drink, and then immediately pour and serve.