Friday, August 31, 2012

Upcoming Events: Los Angeles Times "The Taste"

This Labor Weekend the Los Angeles Times is proudly sponsoring a three-day food, wine, and spirit extravaganza on the Paramount Pictures Studios Lot called "The Taste." Tickets are still available for a few of the events and priced at a remarkable $65, which includes unlimited food and drink.

Here's a breakdown of the events:

Saturday: "Field to Fork" hosted by Russ Parsons and Ray Garcia from 11:00 - 3:00
Saturday Night: "Cocktail Confidential" hosted by Jessica Gelt and Julian Cox from 8:00 - 11:00
Sunday: "Flavors of L.A." Hosted by Jonathan Gold and Evan Kleiman from 11:00 - 3:00
Sunday Night: "Dinner & Drinks" Hosted by Betty Hallock & The Beer Chicks 8:00 - 11:00
Monday: "Labor Day Picnic" Hosted by Noelle Carter & Zoe Nathan

Serious restaurateurs, celebrity chefs and mixologists, award-winning journalists, and of course...yours truly will be there. So look for us and let's have a drink together!

Product Spotlight: Jefferson's Bourbon

Printed on the label of Jefferson's Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky are the words in all caps, "VERY SMALL BATCH." I'd argue that they don't even need to spell it out for people because you can taste the quality and the caliber of this bourbon in every sip.

The bottle is as beautifully designed as the rest of their series: Jefferson's, Jefferson's Reserve, Jefferson's 18 Year Old Presidential Select, and Jefferson's 10 Year Old Straight Rye Whiskey.

This Labor Day Weekend, toast your own contributions to the American workforce with a well-deserved Presidential bourbon.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

American Coffee Coco Cocktail

This Labor Day weekend when you're sitting around the campfire in the mountains or at the beach, or languishing at home over the thought of summer ending, drink a cup of spiked hot coco. Hot chocolate conjures up all sorts of happy feelings, so just wait until there's butterscotch in the mix.

1 packet Starbucks VIA Decaf Italian Roast
8 ounces boiling water
3 tablespoons hot coco powder
3 ounces butterscotch schnapps

Directions Mix 8 ounces of boiling water with a packet of Starbucks VIA in a coffee mug. Add the coco powder and butterscotch schnapps, stirring well. Top witt marshmallows, whipped cream, or both and serve.

For more coffee cocktails, try...
Mexican Coffee Cocktail
Keoko Cocktail
Iced Caramel Coffee with Blackberry Liqueur

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mexican Coffee Cocktail

Find a way to make this recipe in your office coffee pot and besides becoming employee of the week year you'll have one hell of a great day. The smell of the cinnamon alone is enough to put your boss in a Christmas-bonus-kinda-mood and make the staff crazy with productivity. I dare you to make it happen.

The other less exciting option is to sip it after dinner while reading a really good book. Luckily it tastes the same either way.

Provecho mis amigos!

6 ounces Starbucks VIA Italian Dark Roast
2 ounces Kahlua Mexican Coffee Liqueur
1 tablespoon chocolate syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon chipotle chile pepper
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for garnish

For other great coffee drinks, try...
American Coffee Coco Cocktail
Iced Caramel Coffee with Blackberry Liqueur
Keoko Coffee

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Keoke Coffee

Without a doubt, the most popular coffee cocktail I made behind the bar was the Keoke Coffee Cocktail. The only downside was using coffee that would rarely qualify as "freshly brewed," or waiting for what seemed like an eternity for a fresh pot to brew.

This is when an instant coffee comes to the rescue. At home it only takes a few minutes to boil the small quantity of water you need, and in a restaurant there's often a pot of hot water ready for those tea drinkers.

Make sure the coffee is of high quality and rich; I prefer the dark roasts for use in any cocktail recipes.

1 ounce coffee liqueur
1/2 ounce creme de cacao
1/2 ounce brandy
8 ounces VIA Italian Dark Roast coffee
Whipped creme

Directions Pour a packet of VIA into a large coffee cup and add 8 ounces of boiling water.  Pour the coffee liqueur, creme de cacao, and brandy into the coffee and stir well. Top with fresh whipped creme.

Why VIA? Read here.

Need a few more coffee drinks? Try...
American Coffee Coco Cocktail
Iced Caramel Coffee with Blackberry Liqueur
Mexican Coffee Cocktail

Monday, August 27, 2012

Iced Caramel Coffee with Blackberry Liqueur

Extend summer with this easy, instant coffee drink. Try a variety of liqueurs such as apricot, strawberry, or chocolate for a new flavor every afternoon of the week.

Ingredients (Serves 2)
16 ounces of ice water
4 ounces of Chambord
Ice cubes

Directions Empty the VIA Caramel packet into a 20-ounce pitcher, then add 16 ounces of water. Mix until the coffee is diluted. Add 4 ounces of blackberry liqueur like Chambord (or more if desired) and stir well. Pack your glassware with ice and add the coffee cocktail.

For other coffee drinks, try...
American Coffee Coco Cocktail
Keoke Coffee Cocktail

A Week of Coffee Cocktails Because I Heart Starbucks

Every morning after my bar shifts I'd wake up early and walk to Starbucks for a coffee and a pastry. I was one of those lucky customers who witnessed my drink go into production as soon as I got in line, and proudly knew all the Starbucks employee names (some still work at that particular location after over ten years).

With cash lining my pockets from the night before, I'd always add to the tip jar, and took pride in leaving an extra special "thank you" after my biggest nights at the bar. What goes around, comes around, right? The friendly, personable Starbucks staff helped me wake up and get back home to a day writing at the computer before another bar shift began.

My first job out of college was working as a barista and I still credit that position for preparing me for what bartendering would be like.  You've got to move fast, remember dozens of drink recipes, and remain calm, collected, and social, all while completing an order to perfection.

My home is now too far to walk to a Starbucks, but I do tear open a packet of VIA every single morning before cracking open the lap top. This week is dedicated to coffee cocktail recipes because I owe them a little "thank you" for helping me get up early to finish writing my first bartending book, and now, a second.

Leave a comment for your favorite cocktail this week either here or on our Facebook page, and win a 28-day supply of Starbucks VIA. Your coffee will be so easy to make that you may even find yourself with the extra time to write that book you've been thinking about.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Non-Fiction Friday: What Do You Really Want To Do?

The 2nd most popular question I'd get while behind the bar (the 1st being, "How do I get a bartending job) was, "So what do you really want to do?" I hated that question. It implied that I was somehow unhappy, unfulfilled, or wasting my life away by working as a bartender. I loved the job.

There were definitely those moments, don't get me wrong. Like the time that guy vomited on the bar or the homeless woman threw a glass at my head. But for the most part, it was a truly fabulous job (did I ever tell you what Bradley Cooper said to me?). So when someone asked what I really wanted to do with my life I said, "Be a bartender." The more they pressed me the more convincing I was.

Of course it was a lie. But telling people in Los Angeles that you want to be a writer while you're shaking their martini is a sad, sad cliche that I was not willing to put a face on. Sharing what you really want to do...that's too personal. Would you share your ambitions and dreams with the first stranger who asked? Is it a question you'd feel comfortable just casually throwing out at your bank teller or grocery checker?

I did open up a few times over the course of my career and usually got an earful in return or a snide remark that would ruin my night.

"You can't make a living at it."
"If you were really serious about writing you'd find a way not to work this job."
"What'll it be- the next great American novel? Good luck!"

It took me a while to realize that these people weren't actually speaking to me at all. They were speaking to themselves.  Pulling out and dusting off the excuse they'd become so accustomed to hearing in their own head and perhaps wishing I'd free them from it by taking it on as my own toxic self-doubt loaded baggage. 

What would I say to those people now? I'd open up but not until they did first. I'd turn the questions right back at them and ask, "Are you doing what you really want to do?" And then I'd listen. Without judgement or jealously or fear. I'd find the opportunity to be supportive, to say, "Hey, maybe you're not doing it today, but you can certainly start towards that goal tomorrow. Because then maybe one day down the road, when someone asks if you're happy, fulfilled, and embracing every moment of life, you can say, yes. Yes!" Then I'd refill their drink and ask more questions.

So...what do you really want to do?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mixology 101: Ginger Simple Syrup

I will probably keep a container of ginger simple syrup in the refrigerator for the rest of my life because it's just that good and complements an enormous number of spirits.

This simple syrup is also delicious in hot tea, over green tea ice cream, in a tall glass of lemonade ice tea, or over pancakes.

1 medium ginger root
2 cups water
1.5 cups sugar*

Directions Peel a medium sized ginger root and slice into pieces. In a saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and ginger and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the sugar has dissolved, about 30 minutes. *Add more sugar if you desire a thicker consistency. Remove the saucepan from the heat and strain into a container. Cool, and refrigerate up to a week.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Find My Tap App

I recently installed the free Find my Tap App to my iphone. It allows you to find out where your favorite beer is served on tap, whether you're near home or out and about looking to saddle up for a nice cold brew. Plug in your favorite beer and all the bars serving it near you will pop up. Plus, you can read bar reviews, or add your favorite bars to the growing list. Beer festivals and events are also listed so you're sure to have weekend plans with friends through the rest of the summer.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Drinking Wine for a Good Cause

One day wine is good for you, the next day it's not. If you're keeping track of the pros and cons then here's some information to encourage you to unabashedly uncork and pour.

TerraCycle is an unbelievable recycling program that gives you every reason to grant your trash a second life. From corks to cell phones to candy wrappers to hummus containers, TerraCycle will take it and turn it into something (sort of) new and (possibly) shiny.

You can send it in the mail or drop it off at a collection site and raise money for your favorite organization. Turn that pile of corks into something other than a pile of corks, like a park bench or garbage can. The only thing that should be lying around in your home is unopened wine.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Product Spotlight: Kahlua Iced Coffee Drinks

You noticed on Facebook  how excited we were to receive these petite cans of Kahlua iced coffee drinks . Well, the enthusiasm continues, even though they are now tragically empty.

The decorative cans each boast a unique design and are small enough to fit in a compact fridge, hotel mini bar, or your purse. It was tough to choose a favorite between Cinnamon Spice, Iced Espresso, and Iced Mocha, but with a weakness for all things chocolate, the Mocha took the gold.

They are all delicious, and we suspect you'll enjoy each one, poured over a tall glass of ice.

Friday, August 17, 2012

THIS GIRL'S Hot Pick of the WEEK

A teeny tiny white board with an itty bitty dry erase marker to make a big bold statement about your wines. A great item for parties, wine games, or just marking your territory.

Now you can ditch the wine charms and just claim an entire bottle for yourself with one of these signs. You'll never have to worry about someone finishing off your favorite Merlot again.

Available here!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tasty Brand Gummie Give Away

To compliment our week of back-to-school inspired cocktails, we have boxes of Tasty Brand Gummies to give away to 5 lucky winners!

Just leave us a comment here or on our Facebook page about which drink you like best and why. Then on Monday, we will randomly choose 5 winners to a send a box too. Good luck!

Gummie Punch
Chocolate Creme Sandwich Cocktail
Mandarine Orange Vodka Cup
Cotton Candy Cookie Cocktail

And if you don't win, don't fret. Tasty Brand is now at your local California Costco store (even in Hawaii). Our SoCal fans can grab a stash from Huntington Beach, Irvine, Burbank, Simi Valley, and dozens of other cities for your next cocktail party!

Back to School Week: Pack That Drink This...Fruit Gummies

No lunch is complete without fruit gummies. Lucky for us Tasty Brand makes pouches of these organic fruit snacks for your cocktailing creativity. They're so delicious that I'd garnish a bottle of beer with them. Just try not to dump the whole lot in your mouth at once. It's such a waste of a pleasant experience and true foodies always savor their food, even when eating gummies.

Gummie infused vodka tastes like fruit punch so once you've made a batch, experiment with a variety of juices until you find your perfect drink. This cocktail is really going to connect you with your inner child. But not the real child because he's sitting comfortably on the bus when you're making these, right?

Gummie Punch
1 pouch Tasty Brand Organic Fruit Snacks
3 ounces vodka
Splash cranberry juice
Splash orange juice
Splash pineapple juice

Add gummies to the vodka and set aside until dissolved. Pout the vodka into a shaker and add the juices. Shake well with ice and strain into a martini shaker. Garnish with, duh...gummies.

For more back-to-school drinks, try...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Art & Cocktails

As children, our mother took us to the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park just about every Sunday. It was either that or the beaches of La Jolla Shores or Coronado. You can probably guess which activity we preferred, but fortunately museum visits often ended with an ice cream from the food cart on the lawn outside, which made things much more interesting for us kids (and Dad too). Had we been 21+, and SDMA hosted soirées similar to the one taking place this Thursday, trips to the museum would have been a breeze. Art Mix, A Curated Cocktail Party starts at 7:00pm, August 16, and offers innovative libations and pairing stations throughout the exhibit halls. Peruse Moroccan tapestries while sampling street food from Tangier, and create your own culinary concoction while sipping original cocktails.

ArtMix, SDMA’s new event series has the right idea by allowing art to be enjoyed in a lively and festive atmosphere. My next visit to the San Diego Museum of Art will be nostalgic, but I’ll appreciate the artwork on a new, more “adult” level — with cocktail in-hand.

For more information, visit

Back to School Week: Pack This Drink That...Chocolate Sandwich Cremes

Although this sugary delight once topped many "most unhealthy foods" lists, the knock-off version is currently sold at Whole Foods under the name "Chocolate Sandwich Cremes."Therefor, you can take comfort in the fact that it's actually healthy for you and eating triple your serving size may even be beneficial to your health.
*It may be time to add some small print to our blog.

If you are challenged with only eating a few of these treats, indulge in a Chocolate Creme Cocktail instead. Trust us. You'll only need one.

Chocolate Creme Cocktail
1 ounce cake vodka
1 ounce chocolate liqueur
1 ounce vanilla almond milk
2 tablespoons finely chopped chocolate cookie

Mix all of the liquid ingredients together in a shaker with ice and shake hard. Coat the rim of a cocktail glass with simple syrup or regular syrup and immerse into the mound of cookie crumbs. Strain the liquids into the glass and serve.

For more back-to-school drinks, try
Cotton Candy Sugar Cookie Cocktail
Mandarine Orange Vodka Cup
Fruit Gummie Cocktail

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Back to School Week: Pack This Drink That...Mandarine Orange Jell-O Cups

Wasn't the original name for these lunch snacks "fruit cocktail?" Definitely not PC these days. I remember going through the lunch line and being served a soupy ladle of miscellaneous fruit pieces only remotely identifiable by their shape and whatever texture was left after soaking in a jar for possibly decades. It's gotten better...well except for the individual, disposable plastic servings being chucked in landfills. But just look at the color. Aren't they pretty?

Mandarine Orange Vodka Jell-O Cups
1 box of orange Jell-O mix
1 cup Mandarine orange vodka
1 cup boiling water
1 can Mandarine oranges

Directions In a large, glass measuring pitcher, mix the Jell-o mix with one cup of boiling water and one cup of orange vodka until all the powder dissolves. Allow to cool for 30 minutes, then add the Mandarine fruit pieces. Pour the mixture into martini glasses and chill until the Jell-o is solid. Serve with a spoon or ladle.

For more Pack This Drink That Cocktails, try...
Cotton Candy Cookie Cocktail
Chocolate Creme Sandwich Cocktail
Fruit Gummie Cocktail

Monday, August 13, 2012

Back to School Week: Pack This Drink That...Sugar Cookies

The morning rush is unbelievably hectic and you almost never make it out the door in time. But here's a little inspiration as you pack lunches and wave tearful goodbyes to the school bus. Stay in your robe a little longer, put on the soap opera you've been dying to catch up on all summer long, and sip something sweet.

Sugar Cookie
Cotton Candy Sugar Cookies
The ingredients in each cookie are unpronounceable yet who can stop at just one? The frosting is the best and worst you've ever tasted and the dough teeters between perfectly soft and raw.  These mini cookies are irresistible and give the inspiration to force that those yucky carrots.

Cotton Candy Cocktail

Cotton Candy Cocktail
3 ounces cotton candy vodka
Splash pink lemonade
Splash cranberry juice
Sugar sprinkles for garnish

Combine the juice with ice into a shaker and mix well. Strain into a martini glass with a sugar coated rim.

For more Pack This Drink That cocktails, try...
Mandarine Vodka Jell-O Cups
Chocolate Creme Sandwich Cocktail
Fruit Gummie Cocktail

Friday, August 10, 2012

3-Ingredient Cocktails: Coco Cafe & Rum

For the final drink in this week's collection of 3-ingredient summer cocktails, we give you the balanced, sweet taste of cafe latte, coconut, hazelnut, and rum. This is the kind of drink that tastes especially good on a summer day starting well before 5 o'clock.

Coco Cafe & Rum
2 ounces Coco Cafe: Coconut Water Cafe Latte
2 ounces light rum
1 ounce Frangelico

Shake ingredients together and strain into a martini glass or pour over ice.

For more 3-ingredient drinks, try...
Gourmet Hard Lemonade
Ginger Nectarine Cocktail
Watermelon Vodka

Thursday, August 9, 2012

3-Ingredient Cocktails: Gourmet Hard Lemonade

Today the Easy Summer Drinks theme continues with a batch of good ol' fashioned hard lemonade: gourmet style. This recipe will keep beautifully in your fridge for as long as a week, so if you like your neighbors, multiply the recipe by 10 and prepare for repeat customers.

Gourmet Hard Lemonade
2 ounces vodka
2 ounces organic pink lemonade
1 ounce homemade, organic sweet and sour

For other 3-Ingredient cocktails, try...
Ginger Nectarine Cocktail
Vodka & (Fancy) Soda
Pina Colada

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

3-Ingredient Cocktails: Ginger Nectarine Cocktail

Today's drink is the third in the series of Easy Summer Cocktails and sticks to the three ingredient theme. It involves a little more work because you do have to make the syrup first, but if you prepare a large enough batch it can contribute to a lot of other last minute cocktails.

Ginger Nectarine Cocktail
4 ounces vodka
1 juicy nectarine
1 ounce ginger simple syrup

Directions Slice up the entire nectarine and drop it all into a shaker except for the pit. Add the vodka and muddle well. Strain into a jar or measuring pitcher to filter out the fruit chunks. Measure desired amount into a shaker, add ginger syrup, shake with ice, and strain into a martini glass or over ice.

For other 3-ingredient cocktails, try...
Watermelon Vodka
Pina Colada
Vodka & (Fancy) Soda

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

3-Ingredient Cocktails: Watermelon Vodka

It's the second day of a week of easy summer cocktails and I'm already getting in trouble for saying the season is almost over. Hey- just as department stores start selling scarves and hanging giant ornaments in late August, I've got to keep up with the demand to debut fall drinks before there's snow on the ground. I mean, can you imagine the embarrassment of drinking a summer drink in the fall? I must protect your reputation.

Yes, I joke. Who really cares what you drink when? As long as it tastes good, right? Think how stunningly festive this cocktail will look around the Thanksgiving table.

Watermelon Vodka
2 ounces vodka
2 ounces tonic water
2 ounces fresh water melon juice
Garnish with two lime wedges, squeezed and dropped into the drink (and pretend it's not the 4th ingredient)

For more watermelon drinks, try these...
Watermelon Cocktail
Watermelon Margarita

Monday, August 6, 2012

3-Ingredient Cocktails: Vodka & (Fancy) Soda

This week will be a 5-day focus on summer cocktails before we run out of time! Obviously you can enjoy any kind of drink at any time of season, but there's something about fruits and the clear spirits that spell hot summer day.

Vodka & (Fancy) Soda
2 ounces vodka
2 ounces Cascal Fermented Soda (Fresh Tropical Flavor)
Squeeze of a lime wedge

For other 3-ingredient cocktails try this...
Pina Colada 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

International Beer Day

On Sunday, August 5th, as we all continue to watch and pay tribute to the spectacular Olympics, we have the opportunity to celebrate another worldly event: International Beer Day. Let us all join together on this special occasion by sampling beers from around the planet. Show your competitive spirit by playing Beer Chess, Beer Pong, or perhaps the less complicated Beergammon. Prepare medals for the best tasting beers and display them for eternity in your man-cave. Sip your beer with passion, determination, and hard work, because as any Olympic athlete will tell you, that's what it takes to get really, really good at something.

My trustworthy BevMo Beer Expert directed me to a few beers that I'd like to try: Bear Republic Racer Five IPA, Shipyard Monkey Fist IPA, Firestone Rsv Wookey Jack IPA, Lagunitas IPA, and Green Flash West Coast IPA. Surely these selections will see me through hours of badminton, beach volleyball, and boxing finals. Somebody has to take this world-wide celebration seriously, and I only hope I'm not alone.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Non-Fiction Friday: Very Unfocused Writing

The final draft is coming slowly but surely, usually between the hours of 5 and 7AM. Ok, more like between 6:25AM and 7:00AM by the time I'm finally out of bed and in decent newspaper collection clothing, drinking my perfectly measured hot cup of vanilla nut creamer. Then the day starts and that small, precious window of time when the world is so quiet that I wouldn't dare disrupt it with a cycle of whites ends and it's time to move on to reality. Did you know that Jonathan Franzen's reality is writing in a tiny office with his back to New York City on a computer with a disabled internet connection rendered unfixable by the severed ethernet cable he superglued in himself? No question I much prefer my reality. I've got it good all around. I just wish I could be a little more disciplined, like instead of bitching and complaining in this blog entry I started 20 minutes ago about how fast the early morning goes, I might have fixed a few more sentences in what I hope is the final draft of book 2. Blogger, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Email, Texts... I've kinda got no one to blame but myself for dragging out what should have been completed weeks ago. It's a cute little etiquette guide you'll want to put on your coffee table next to This Girl Walks Into a Bar. But hey wait! It's now 12:13 in the early morning. This is my chance to get something done! Let me just finish watching a teeny bit more of the Olympics and then I'll totally write something great.

Read more Non-Fiction Friday stories here...
Non-Fiction Friday: Celebrity Response Protocol 
Non-Fiction Friday: A Random Act of Stupidity
Non-Fiction Friday: Hotel Hobo

Thursday, August 2, 2012

PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT: Cascal Fermented Sodas

You've seen these sodas popping up in my recipes recently and may be wondering what's so special about a couple of tall, skinny, decorative cans. I think the secret is the fermented, natural juices used in all of the Cascal flavors, giving this beverage a unique and refreshing taste. They taste nothing like the sodas we all know we shouldn't be drinking and are much more interesting than simply dropping a slice of citrus fruit into some sparkling water. And then of course, they pair perfectly with a variety of spirits for a great cocktail.

Available now at your local Whole Foods, Bristol Farms, and Earth Fare.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Simple Wine & Soda Sangria (for One!)

Ideally sangria has time to sit for a few hours, allowing the fruit to marinate with the wine, sugar, and brandy. But this isn't a requirement and definitely shouldn't keep you from making a glass of sangria for one.

For my individual serving I tried replacing the brandy with one of the Cascal Fermented Sodas I was sent to try, and used honey instead of sugar for the sweetener. To hurry the flavors of the fresh fruit, I did have to gently press them into the glass with a spoon before adding the other ingredients. The drink tasted just as good as the traditional versions and required a lot less work. Always a plus!

Wine & Soda Sangria
2 ounces white wine
2 ounces Cascal Fermented Soda
(I used the Fresh Tropical flavor which lent itself well to this recipe)
1 teaspoon honey
Fresh apple, lemon, and lime slice
Carefully stir all the ingredients together before you sip.

If you like Sangria, try these...
Pineapple Melon Sangria
Traditional Red Wine Sangria
April Showers Sangria Cuplets