All posts by Contributing Writer

Redeem yourself on Dad’s day – toast with Redemption Whiskey

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We are big fans of distilled brown spirits of all types. And if you happen to be, as well, Father’s Day is a great excuse to splurge on a really nice bottle. But, then, so is Memorial Day, or summer, or Saturday, or… Heck, who needs an excuse anyway?

Redemption whiskey comes in several versions
Redemption whiskey comes in several versions

Redemption WhiskeyThe bold, flask shaped bottle is a perfect fit for the hardworking Dads in our lives, and the story of the whiskey is right on the label.

Redemption Wheated Bourbon ($44.99; 48% ABV) – NEW! This new limited edition offering, coming June 2017 just in time for Father’s Day, is harmonious on the palate, delicate, yet robust and intense. Most Wheated Bourbons have between 20% and 30% wheat in their mash bill while Redemption has 45%. Flavors of roasted coffee bean, smoked meats and hazelnut marry harmoniously with spicy notes of cardamom and black pepper and a fresh hint of mint. Deep topaz and amber with hues of orange and lime.

Redemption Rye ($29.99; 46% ABV) – A true expression of the rye grain, beautifully flavored rye spice with light floral and citrus notes. Slight mint finish makes this great or sipping or mixing in a classic cocktail.

Redemption Bourbon ($29.99; 42% ABV) – The high amount of corn gives this bourbon a classic sweet taste with notes of vanilla and caramel from the wood, and the rye adds some light spice flavor. Bottled at 84 proof for a lighter experience, great on the rocks or in mixed drinks.

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Experience virtual Louisville KY at Binny’s tonight

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English: Montage of Louisville Ky
English: Montage of Louisville Ky (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We have relatives who live in Louisville, KY so we’re happy to give the city a little boost here. Check out a few points of interest.

Spirits Boom: The bourbon continues to flow in Possibility City. Angel’s Envy’s downtown distillery will open this fall; in addition, moonshine purveyors Lucky and Kentucky Peerlesshave begun distilling their spirits in downtown Louisville.

A Neighborhood for Everyone: Whether it’s bar hopping in Nulu, savoring culinary creations in Butchertown or taking in Germantown’s deep European ties, there’s distinct character waiting to be discovered in each of the city’s many neighborhoods.

Refreshed Museums: The Speed Art Museum reopened this year, debuting a new building and expanded exhibits following a $50 million renovation. The Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft also reopened recently, offering an in-depth look at the region’s folk art.

BOURBON, BLUEGRASS & BASEBALL. Binny’s Lincoln Park is hosting an evening of Kentucky-themed cocktails and Southern-inspired hors d’oeuvres tonight, with live bluegrass music by Hickory Vaught and Bourbon education from expert Bernie Lubbers, Heaven Hill Global Whiskey Ambassador. The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience and the Louisville Slugger Museum will also be in attendance, providing a series of experiences for guests.

Binny’s Beverage Depot
1720 N. Marcey St.
Thursday, September 8, 2016
5 to 8 p.m.

 

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Eat haute and help inspire new chefs – Charlie Trotter Project

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Chicago always inspires
Chicago always inspires

Eat at a gourmet restaurant any day between today, Thursday August 17 and Sunday August 21, select a Charlie-Trotter-inspired menu item, and know that proceeds will benefit the Pillars of Excellence Mentor Program of The Trotter Project, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that seeks to inspire, train, and provide opportunities for aspiring chefs and hospitality professionals.

Special thanks to United Airlines, the official airline partner of The Trotter Project that will donate $1 for every Choice Menu Bistro on Board item sold on all domestic flights, August 17-21, 2016.

Stay up to date with menus and new restaurant additions to Charlie Trotter Day: follow @TrotterProject on Twitter and @TheTrotterProject on Instagram, LIKE us on Facebook, and join the conversation with #CharlieTrotterDay. And go visit one of these fine restaurants in the city:

  • A10
  • Acadia
  • Ampersand Wine Bar
  • Appellation Wine Bar & Restaurant
  • Balena
  • bellyQ
  • Swift and Sons beautiful private dining area
    Swift and Sons beautiful private dining area

    Brindille

  • The Bristol
  • Formento’s
  • Goddess and the Baker
  • GreenRiver
  • GT Fish & Oyster
  • Intro
  • The Lobby at The Peninsula Chicago
  • mfk
  • MK the Restaurant
  • Naha
  • Salero
  • Swift & Sons
  • Taus Authentic
  • Yusho Hyde Park
  • Yusho Logan Square
    * All restaurants are in Chicago
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New Nando’s – August 7 – help downtown Chicago park

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If you haven’t tried it yet, now’s a great time to go enjoy some juicy, spicy, flame-grilled chicken at Nando’s PERi-PERi. It’s a totally unique, fast casual kind of place where the food is excellent and you can enjoy special sodas or a glass of wine with your meal.

They’ve only been in Chicago a year, but this South African-Portuguese restaurant known around the world is hatching its eighth Chicago-area restaurant at 227 E. Ontario in Streeterville. If you go on opening day, Sunday Aug. 7th, 100% of what you spend will get donated to help renovate the popular Seneca Park and the Eli M. Schulman Playground at Chicago Avenue and Mies van der Rohe Blvd.

“When a new Nando’s opens, we like to be good neighbors by partnering with local non-profits to help the community,” said Burton Heiss, CEO of Nando’s PERi-PERi USASince opening in Chicago in spring 2015, Nando’s has raised more than $100,000 for local non-profits.

“We are delighted to have a Nando’s in our neighborhood, and we so appreciate their commitment to improving this important public space,” said Marc Schulman, who chaired the 1990 campaign to create the playground and rebuild Seneca Park in honor of his father, the late Eli M. Schulman, a well-known restaurateur who was active in promoting Chicago and helping youth. 

nandos food lowres 300

Every Nando’s is carefully designed and completely unique, with earthy textures and bright colors that reflect its sunny African-Portuguese heritage. In Streeterville, Nando’s has transformed a former U.S. Post Office into a colorful and inviting destination. An over-sized mural by South African painter John Murray adds vibrant pinks and reds to the main dining room wall. In the United States alone, there are more than 700 pieces of original African art in Nando’s restaurants.

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3 Chicago spots for wine or beer dinners

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Wildfire wine dinner place settings
Wildfire wine dinner place settings

Ever been to a wine dinner? They go on around the city all the time, yet can be quite different. Naturally, the featured wines are important. And, of course, the chef-inspired menu is critical. One of the best we’ve run across for consistently good menus and consistently generous pours is Wildfire’s wine dinners, 159 W. Erie in downtown Chicago.

Their most recent one, held in late July in Wildfire’s private party room, featured selections from Cambria Estate Vineyards including a lovely “Tepusquet Vineyard” Viognier 2014 served with creative appetizers – watermelon tuna tartare with sriracha mayo on an herb cracker and grilled plump shrimp “lollipops” to dip in spicy passionfruit sauce.

Next came a generous cut of grilled white sturgeon in a rose-colored peach-butter sauce paired with Cambria’s “Benchbreak” Chardonnay 2014, a light, unoaked white with notes of tropical fruits. Delicious. And compliments to the chef on his handling of meats – the mustard-crusted beef tenderloin practically melted in your mouth.  We urge you to give Wildfire a try next time they do a wine dinner, usually priced ~$80 to $90 plus tax and tip. They do one almost every month, except for August when they’re doing a beer dinner and holiday months November and December). Check out the Joel Gott wine dinner coming up September 20.

Da Vinci Restaurant, 1732 N. Halsted, is another restaurant that does slightly more affordable (~$50 +tt) but also highly enjoyable wine dinners. Coming up August 10 with Zito wines look for antipasti, pasta – in this case, penne with zucchini, tomato, goat cheese stuffed zucchini flower) – secondo, and dessert. The restaurant itself is broken into multiple cozy dining areas and the wine dinner usually takes place in one of those that fits the number of guests. Friendly service, nice lighting, comfortable ambiance.

And for those who love their beer, aptly named Goose Island Brewery, 1800 N. Clybourn, this summer got rid of its wine & spirits license to become a strictly beer restaurant. Besides carrying a really large assortment of all types of beers, from stouts to ales to lagers, they worked hard on expanding what you can do with beer. Imagine drinking a “bocktail” with your brunch. Choose from a Sofie Mimosa (Sofie lager and orange juice), a Michalada (tomato juice, lime, cayenne, celery salt and SPF), a Peach Wit Shandy (lemon juice, peach syrup, Willow St. Wit) or a Beer-rita (lime & organge juice infused with cilantro & jalapeno, All Purpose IPA).  The servers are well-versed in their listings and can help you figure out what you might like. Serving lunch, brunch, pub fare, burgers, greens and soup and more.

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100 years of Juan Gil Family wines

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Juan Gil wine in candlelight at Maple and Ash
Juan Gil wine in candlelight at Maple and Ash

Spanish wines had been heading to the top of our list of favorites anyway, and they recently got another big push in that direction when the Juan Gil Family Wines debuted their collection in Chicago. This delightful winemaker’s portfolio tasting was put together by the importers and distributors at Heritage Wine Cellars and held in the sleek and modern yet warm and sexy environs of Maple & Ash, 8 W. Maple St.

In 1916 Juan Gil Jiménez established Gil Family Estates in the Jumilla appellation of Spain. The operation has been passed down for four generations and now, after 100 years, is one of Spain’s foremost wine producers, with nine bodegas located across eight appellations.
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Juan Gil executives in Chicago
Juan Gil executives in Chicago

Members of the Juan Gil family and winemaking teams brought their wines to Chicago where they told their stories to guests who enjoyed samples of dozens of delicious wines, including the limited release of Juan Gil 100 Anniversario. Maple and Ash provided delicious appetizers to complement the wines, and the hundredth anniversary chocolate-and-whipped-cream cake was to die for.

Starting with the white wines of a beautiful and expressive winemaker named Belinda Thomson, we were hooked. The whites include many made with Albarino grapes and come in a range from crisp yet fruity to perfectly rounded and rich. And the reds only got better and better – elegant and refined, complex and satisfying. Some of the reds are deep inky purply red color, others ranging from rose red to berry, and from garnet to mahogany. Intense, with great mouth-feel and long finishes.  Representative wines included those from:

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The Gil Family combines the art of old vine indigenous grape-growing with modern winemaking to produce terroir-driven wines that are internationally respected for their originality, consistency and value. Their wines are elegant. Their websites are beautiful and easy to read and navigate. Their labels are gracefully modern. And their prices range from popular premium (Bodegas Ateca Honoro Vera Garnacha 2014 ~$9) to luxury (El Nido 2013 ~$100).
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100 years of delicious Juan Gil Family Estates wines. We highly recommend going forth to your favorite wine dealer to get yourself some.
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Housewares execs love Chicago food and drink

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That time of year has come and gone again. They showed up to rock the marketplace with hordes of new gadgets, appliances, devices and other must-have items on display at the International Housewares Show 2016, held at McCormick Place last week and scheduled for March 18 through 21st, 2017 (mark your calendars). Click to watch the video of 2016 highlights here.
It’s fun to learn that many of the company execs who attend the show regularly here have developed their own favorite food places and activities in Chi-town. We asked a few of them where they like to eat and what they like to do:
Repping Ronco at International Housewares Show
Repping Ronco at International Housewares Show

Eydie Webster EVP Sales & Marketing for Ronco says she loves to eat at Emilio’s for Spanish tapasVolare Ristorante Italiano, Beatrix in Streeterville for just plain good food, and almost anywhere for a Chicago dog . She also likes to walk the Magnificent Mile, have a drink in the Signature Room atop the John Hancock, and listen to music at Buddy Guy’s Legends nightclub (one of our favorite music spots).

Funtastic America at the IHS 2016
Funtastic America at the IHS 2016

Sharon Duncan, Vice President General Manager, Funtastic America says Gene & Geogetti’s Steakhouse and Kitty O’Shea’s at the Hilton downtown are the two that keep them coming back.  And “when we have time, rarely, we take a walk along the lake and make a stop at the Science and Industry Museum.”

Bringing Great Plate items to IHS 2016
Bringing Great Plate items to IHS 2016
Beth Kuehl: Inventor/Owner of Great Plate enjoys Remington’s Chicago classic American grill restaurant, Lockwood Restaurant at the Palmer Hilton and pizza at the Exchequer Pub. In downtown Chicago, once her business is done, she loves shopping, shopping and more shopping, and when she’s not shopping, she’s visiting the Art Museum.

Too bad these execs don’t have time to enjoy a few more of the 8,000 restaurants just in downtown Chicago…

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Lose the booze redux – DRY sparkling and Naked Mind book

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We wrote recently about Dry January, a UK-originated movement to abstain from alcohol for the entire first month of the year. Interesting idea. But for a lot of wine, beer and spirit lovers, the lack of serious and sophisticated alternatives to booze can be a big barrier to even considering such a radical idea.
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DRY sparkling Lavender in 750ml bottle
DRY sparkling Lavender in 750ml bottle

A newcomer to the market, DRY Soda, is helping eliminate this problem with a new concept in beverages. DRY sparkling soda is a bubbly non-alcoholic option that contains a small amount of natural cane sugar along with some unusual and complex flavorings. They’re satisfying, perhaps because the natural sugar replaces some of the sugar you would normally get in alcohol, and don’t make you feel deprived because you’re not drinking booze. Because the blend of sugar and acidity is balanced – just as winemakers do with dry wines, balancing sweetness and sharpness – the flavors are appealing on their own, go great with food, and also mix beautifully with juices, champagne, wines, vodka or other spirits.

DRY Blood Orange in 750ml bottle
DRY Blood Orange in 750ml bottle

Pick from unique flavors like rhubarb, ginger, blood orange, vanilla bean and lavender that go beyond the club soda idea by contributing their own refreshing fizzy flavors to whatever cocktail – or mocktail – you build. The blood orange has a distinctive fresh-orange-y taste without being overly sweet. While we’re not usually fans of cherry-flavored anything, the DRY Rainier cherry sparkler tasted good with a balance of just-a-touch of fresh-dark-cherry flavor and not too much sweetness. We particularly liked the vanilla bean – smooth, aromatic like real vanilla, and with perfectly balanced flavor. Delicious on its own and almost good enough to sub for dessert!

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Ingredients include filtered, carbonated water, pure cane sugar, natural flavorings and phosphoric acid (used to give a sharp, acidic twist to the flavor of many colas and other carbonated drinks).
DRY Vanilla Bean is a 4-pack of 12 oz bottles
DRY Vanilla Bean is a 4-pack of 12 oz bottles

DRY offers recipes that help you cut out some alcohol: “No Champagne, No Gain” makes a nice alternative to a traditional champagne toast. “Holiday Trail” mixes vanilla bean DRY, orgeat syrup (a sweet almond/orange blossom concoction – here’s how to make your own orgeat) and bourbon. Mix pureed strawberries and vanilla bean DRY in a “Caliberry Spritzer.” Or just pair and enjoy these drinks with your meals.

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DRY comes in elegant tall cans and in 355ml or 750ml bottles. In Chicago find DRY at select Jewel and Target stores as well as a few other outlets like Plum Market. Use their Web site’s handy “Find DRY” locator by inputting your zip code. But you may want to call ahead, because some places don’t have it or have only limited quantities in stock.
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And if you’d seriously like to consider losing the booze altogether, check out the book The Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness & Change Your Life by Anne Grace.  Raised in a shack with no running water, she became a hugely successful C-level marketing exec who started drinking gradually and eventually found herself drinking way more and enjoying it way less.
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The book talks about how people are afraid to even ask the question, “Am I drinking too much?” because it might mean they have a problem. Try reading this book instead of stealthily checking online at night to see if you’re drinking too much. For some who read it, the most powerful message may be the straight talk about how negatively heavy drinking affects both the present and the future of one’s children. But it’s also a clear-eyed look at the negative effects on anyone.
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Read a story on her website about a high-functioning, successful business man who, after stopping alcohol for only a few days, discovered dramatic positive changes in his feelings about his wife, his children and himself.  He was more patient and felt more connected; it’s a strong statement. On that same page, in return for your email address, you can download the first 40 pages of the book for free.
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Want to lose the booze? New sparkling drink options

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Heard about the “Dry January” campaign in the UK? The idea is to go a month with no alcohol and see how you feel. Some data indicate people tend to drink less, then, over the following six months. Others say there’s no evidence it changes anything.
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A recent book, This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness & Change Your Life, by Annie Grace, talks about an intelligent way to change your mind about how much you drink. Her approach, which explains our unconscious bias in favor of drinking and also brims with facts about the extraordinary dangers of alcohol – like it’s literally poison (ethanol) and that it is progressively addictive to anyone who drinks it, not just to so-called “alcoholics” – is based on the highly praised work of Dr. John Sarno in helping people rid themselves of chronic back and other pain.
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Those who choose to forego alcohol or indulge only sparingly have always been hampered by a lack of sophisticated drink alternatives. Club soda with a lime is okay, but it gets boring fast. Most flavored club sodas have a distinctly unpleasant metallic and fake taste. And some diet soda sweeteners are under severe scrutiny. So what’s a non- or light-imbiber to do?
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The fruit juice/sweetened variety and the organic-only sparkling option
The fruit juice/sweetened variety and the organic-only sparkling option
A newcomer to the market known as Cascade Ice Water sparkling beverages sent some samples recently. The brand comes in 30 lightly carbonated flavors, all of which are sodium, sugar, caffeine and gluten free. The zero-calorie flavored sparkling variety is made with 1% fruit juice and, honestly, we would love to know how they manage to make the aroma of fresh apples greet your nose when you open the McIntosh Apple. Seriously, it’s reminiscent of standing in the cellar-temperature apple shack we used to trek out to every October in Cleveland, Ohio to see the magnificent fall colors and buy apples.
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And how do they get the Strawberry-Orange-Mango to smell and taste like that when the only fruit-related ingredient is pear juice? These guys clearly have some blending magic tricks under their cloaks. By the way, if you’re still drinking red wine, mix some into that Strawberry-Orange-Mango water and you’ve got yourself instant sangria.
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The flavors in this line are lightly sweetened with sucralose, an artificial sweetener considered safe by the FDA. We found it refreshing, not too sweet and at the same time affording some unique flavor sensations. And then we happily realized we’d consumed no sugar or caffeine and hadn’t been dosed with aspartame (said to contribute to cancer, stroke and other risks).
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Another variety of Cascade Ice is its zero-calorie organic sparkling fruit waters. These are lightly carbonated and contain no sugar, caffeine or artificial sweeteners of any kind. Ingredients in the organic waters include only purified water, carbonation and essences from fruit oils and extracts. We were truly surprised and delighted by the clean, fresh, non-fake taste of the flavors of the samples of this variety. Talk about healthy alternatives!
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Cascade Ice’s zero-calorie fruit sparkling waters are made with small amounts of various fruit juices as well as a few traditional long-name ingredients like potassium benzoate (a preservative) and artificial colors. The zero-cal organic water comes in a multitude of mixed fruit flavors like blueberry-acai-pomegranate, coconut-mango, pink grapefruit, raspberry lemonade and 15 others, but keep in mind, these are not sweet. They’re nice-flavored sparkling waters made with organic fruit essences.
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Zevia - sweetened only with all-natural stevia
Zevia – sweetened only with all-natural stevia

And if you want a regular soda that’s just sweet and fizzy without any artificial sweeteners, check out Zevia, soda sweetened with all-natural stevia. It comes in a bunch of flavors. The only ones we’ve tried were black cherry and ginger ale. The black cherry was too strong and too sweet for us, but we like the ginger ale for just plain sipping.

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Wines & spirits to help the holidays shine

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You may be wondering what to toast the holidays with this year. Even though we Americans are welcoming sparkling wine for more and more occasions all year long, Christmas and Hannukah and so on are perfect opportunities to treat ourselves to this most delightful of libations. Below are a few ideas for sparkling wines and suggestions for a fine red Cabernet, a unique creamy liqueur and a few elegant brown spirits.

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Segura Viudas Brut
Segura Viudas Brut

Segura Viudas Brut Cava comes from the sparkling wine experts at Freixenet. It’s their value-driven offering–fine bubbles and sophisticatedly dry, Segura Viudas is a bargain at ~$9.95/750ml. Serve as an aperitif or to toast with, or with salmon, chicken and lighter meats for lunch or supper, or even with nuts or cookies after a meal or for an afternoon visit. Nothing says “I’m glad to see you!” like a glass of good bubbly. Like its parent company, The Freixenet Group, this year Segura Viudas is introducing its own iconic holiday commercial.

English: Gwyneth Paltrow at the 2011 Venice Fi...
English: Gwyneth Paltrow at the 2011 Venice Film Festival (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Freixenet brand is a pop culture icon in Spain thanks to its annual  “Felices Fiestas” ad campaign. The company enlisted superstar Liza Minnelli in 1977 and thus ushered in a new era in advertising. Their ads have featured international superstars like Gene Kelly, Shirley McLaine, Paul Newman, Kim Basinger, Penélope Cruz, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Shakira as seasonal spokespersons. Now the people of Spain happily anticipate the appearance of the Freixenet holiday ad each year.

This year the Segura Viudas holiday commercial features indie rock artist Eleanor Friedberger – watch for her imminent CD release and tour – playing the holiday classic “Auld Lang Syne” by clinking flutes filled with Segura Viudas cava. The spot was produced by Segura Viudas brand manager Josep Ferrer, a 4th generation member of the family that founded Freixenet. “It’s been an honor to follow in the footsteps of my grandfather and father in producing this holiday themed ad for one of our younger brands,” he said of the spot. While honoring the Freixenet tradition, he created this one especially for the Internet generation.
Reserva Heredad's pewter-embellished bottle
Reserva Heredad’s pewter-embellished bottle

Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad is a Spanish Cava made in the traditionalméthode champenoise.  The elegant bottle reflects the premium quality of the cuvée and makes Reserva Heredad an impressive-looking gift for any wine lover. Open the pewter-embellished bottle with the crest of the Segura Viudas family and catch the aroma of brioche followed by hints of honey and dried fruit. ~$25

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And just for fun, here are two recipes to liven up your holiday parties using another of Freixenet’s star products, Cordon Negro Brut cava (they ought to work as well with Segura Viudas):
The Cinnemosa:
Pour 1.5 ounces of Cinnamon Whisky into a glass with 3 ounces of Cordon Negro Brut Cava. Fill remainder of glass with 1 ounce of blood orange juice. Garnish with orange peel.
The Cava Julep:
Combine 4 mint leaves with 1tsp superfine sugar, blueberries and a few drops of water, and muddle well. Add 2 ounces of bourbon whiskey, and stir well. Strain into a Collins glass; add ice cubes and 4 ounces of Cordon Negro Brut cava. Garnish with 2 mint leaves, and serve.
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This year Freixenet is importing a limited supply of Katnook Estate, a premium Cabernet Sauvignon that might bring you red-wine lovers into closer communion with your higher wine self this holiday season. Katnook is one of Australia’s premier South Australian wineries that produces a full line of highly praised Cabernets. The Katnook Estate brand is from the vineyards around the town of Coonawarra in the Limestone Coast zone of South Australia and has been producing wines there since 1896. Today they craft these exceptional Cabernets from vines growing in the ideal climate conditions of the “terra rossa” soil of the region.
The Katnook Estate Founder’s Block Cabernet 2013 is a lovely, medium-bodied wine, with a refined nose of red berries, violets and hints of mint. It will make any meal special – pasta, red meats, quail, and smoky or spicy flavors. Tasting notes say: “Well proportioned with generous fruit and a persistent finish.” We say it’s just a beautiful wine that gets 92 points from multiple reviewers. Prices for Katnook Estate Connawarra Cabernet Sauvignon vary by vintage and may range from ~$15 for younger years up to ~$30 and more for older vintages. Get one for now and one for your cellar.
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SomruS - exotic creamy liqueur in a gold bottle
SomruS – exotic creamy liqueur in a gold bottle

SomruS (it means “nectar of the gods”) is a creamy liqueur made with an intricate blend of exotic Eastern spices, nuts, Caribbean rum and pure dairy cream. Your nose will detect hints of cardamom, saffron, almonds, pistachios and rose in this Original Indian Cream Liqueur that goes beautifully on its own in a chilled glass or can be used in cocktails, baked into desserts or added to a cup of chai. Let your imagination take over. It’s much more exotic than, say, Irish cream liqueur, and unless your guests have themselves already purchased a gold-coated, UV-protected bottle of this modern interpretation of a beverage that has its roots as far back as 2600 B.C.E., they’ll never guess what you’re serving or how you flavored that custard or cake.

Try this simple, rich cocktail: Decorate a martini glass with liquid chocolate. Then mix in a shaker 1-1/2 oz. chilled SomruS with 1-1/2 oz. chilled Kahlua, shake vigorously, pour and enjoy. N.B. You can skip the decorating part, and the drink will taste just as good.
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Cruzan Single Barrel - smooth sipping rum
Cruzan Single Barrel – smooth sipping rum

Cruzan Single Barrel rum. FYI, “single barrel” refers to the fact that after its initial aging, the rum is handpicked and blended before it is barreled for a second time in new American oak barrels and slowly aged again to perfection.  Smooth and silky and spiced with toffee, vanilla and a slightly smoky fruitiness. So beautifully blended that it makes a perfect aperitif or after-dinner libation all by itself or on the rocks. Chill it on the rocks and drink it as a smoother alternative to bourbon or Scotch whisky. It’s subtler yet more harmonious in a mixed cocktail than most regular rums. It’s so fine, we love to sip it straight like a brandy/Cognac. Be sure to use your most elegant crystal glass.

At $29.99 for a 750ml bottle, Cruzan Single Barrel makes for an affordable, yet premium option for the holidays. It goes great with your favorite holiday fare – or even with deep dish pizza. Single Barrel is versatile enough to go with whatever you’re serving this time of year. And it makes an impressive host/hostess gift when you’re off to a party.
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Beautiful cut-glass decanter shows off the amber liquid
Beautiful cut-glass decanter shows off the amber liquid

Hibiki Blended Japanese Harmony Whisky. Embodying the soul of Japanese craftsmanship, this harmonious blend resounds with calm complexity and “Wa”, oneness. “Kanzen”or complete, Hibiki is a harmonious blend of many malt and grain whiskies meticulously blended to create a full orchestra of flavors and aromas. Seductive, blossoming and enigmatic, Hibiki celebrates the art of blending and fine craftsmanship and offers a sense of luxury in your glass. From the House of Suntory, prices range from $65 for Hibiki Japanese Harmony to $250 for Hibiki 21 Year Old. We are talking treating yourself, folks. Don’t mix this whisky in a cocktail or you might miss the subtle pleasure provided by the masterful blending process. Plus the bottle is lovely; you might not even need a decanter.

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Auchentoshan Single Malt Scotch Whisky is Scotland’s only whisky that triple distills every drop, making for a spirit that is approachable (no smoky peat flavor) that works as well sipped neat/on the rocks as it is in cocktails (try the new American Oak, aged solely in first-fill American oak barrels). Prices: $40 for American Oak to $450 for 1988 Wine Matured.

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Bowmore Single Malt Scotch Whisky is ideal for the smoky Scotch lover. Made in Islay’s first distillery (since 1779), Bowmore offers just the right amount of smoke and sweetness to make this whisky a favorite for those who love that peat-infused aroma and taste. From the newest, recently launched Small Batch aged in 1st and 2ndfill ex-bourbon casks to the collectible Bowmore Black, Gold or White, Bowmore is one of the most well-known whiskies in the world and one of the most collectible. Prices: $40 for Small Batch to $650 for Port Matured.

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