The Derby, Phoenix Style

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Photo by Christopher Galli at Bourbon Steak.

A few years ago, a new friend (who has become a dear friend), Joanie Simon, and I went to a Kentucky Derby party… fancy dresses, big hats, people-watching, and a mint julep or two, and we made it a tradition!

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Our first Kentucky Derby party together!

It seemed that only the resorts held events with much fanfare, but things have changed (in a good way), with a variety of restaurants getting in on the action. See below for a list of places to rock giant hats, seersucker suits, sip on bourbon cocktails, to celebrate the fastest, most exciting 2 minutes in sports!

Okra: Okay, you guys know I have an obsession *ahem* affection for Crudo & their cocktails, and I feel the same way about Okra, with amazing dishes from Chef Cullen Campbell, and cocktails from Micah Olson & his amazing team. Love Southern comfort food?  From 2pm to 5pm, nibble on fried chicken skins with habanero honey; smoked wings with homemade hot sauce; Kentucky hot brown dogs; country ham bolognese with biscuits… should I go on? Okra has an extensive offering of juleps, beyond the typical julep which includes the Okra Cup: housemade Pimm’s, lemon, cucumber, strawberry and seltzer; and Champagne juleps with gin, Champagne, raspberry, and mint. Tickets are available for pre-sale for $15 and include a hammered stainless steel mint julep cup, a free order of chicken skins (drizzle some Homeboy’s Habanero hot sauce on top!) and your first julep for only a penny. 5813 N. 7th St., Phoenix, 602.296.4147

Southern Rail: From 1-5 p.m., enjoy $6 mint juleps, Chef Beckett’s tasty dishes with a Southern twist, and a good dose of Southern hospitality. There will be multiple screens to watch the day’s events, with the big race starting at 3:34 p.m. Derby attire is encouraged, and Southern Rail will award prizes for best men and women’s hats, plus a “best dressed overall” category. 300 W. Camelback Road, Phoenix, 602.200.0085

Second Story Liquor Bar: Can we say swanky AND exclusive? Second Story’s Derby party is limited to 44 people & features welcome cocktails and passed appetizers, followed by an elegant 3course Derby-inspired menu prepared by Chef Nick Rusticus–you won’t be disappointed! They’ll have games, prizes, and, most importantly, mint juleps! 12pm-3pm & $100 per person. 4166 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480.945.5555

Kelly’s at Southbridge: Stop by Kelly’s for their viewing party and enjoy classic Jim Beam Mint Juleps and refreshing champagne while you cheer on your favorite horse. Don’t forget to come dressed to the nines! Kelly’s will be giving away prizes for the best Kentucky Derby inspired hat.

And last, but not least…

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Bourbon Steak’s hand-selected Bulleit Bourbon 10 Year Reserve (photo by Christopher Galli.)

Bourbon Steak: I went to this event last year, and I’m so excited to go again this year! Inspired by “Millionaire Row” at Churchill Downs, Bourbon Steak’s Kentucky Derby brunch and lawn party will feature Bulleit bourbon tastings from their own hand-selected barrel, cocktails, and elegant Southern-inspired bites that will make your taste buds happy. Executive Chef Jeremy McMillan will dish out Kentucky hot browns, pickled shrimp toasts, sweet tea-brined fried chicken, house-smoked Andouille sausage, sweet pies and more. Once you have your cocktail in hand, head out to the “Winner’s Circle” lawn to play lawn games or take a selfie with a thoroughbred race horse, all while watching the race on one of the flat-screen TVs. Winners of the “Best Dressed” contest can win a hat, dinner for two at Bourbon Steak and a weekend at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess! $95 per person includes a complete Southern-style lunch, dessert bar, three cocktails, live music, racing games, commemorative keepsake Kentucky Derby glass and much more. Reservations are required. Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, 7575 E. Princess Drive, Scottsdale, 480.585.2694

So, have fun, help contribute to the mint julep consumption of mint juleps at Churchill Downs (those Kentucky lushes drink almost 120 THOUSAND mint juleps for the Derby!), and get home safely. I look forward to seeing your Derby outfits and cocktails on social media! #BoozeMafia

 

 

Stop. Drop. Shamrock (Cocktail).

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Smile! Making cocktails on Periscope! My trusty ladies help bring it all together.

Drinking holidays surround us… Whether it’s St. Patrick’s Day, Repeal Day, or hell, Thanksgiving Eve, people are happy to find a reason to drink. With each of these holidays comes some sort of theme, like margaritas for Cinco de Mayo, or (ew, yuck, yes, I’m judging you) green beer for the most famous of all the drinking days.

Let’s class it up this St. Patrick’s Day, shall we? Or try to, anyways.

For those of you who may know me outside of this blog, you know that I’m a bit of a social media junkie. In fact, I’m actually a marketing consultant who specializes in social & digital marketing, which led me to trying Periscope with friends. Last month, we made it an official thing, and created Valentine’s Day cocktails with gin from Caskwerks Distillery, made very close to home in Tempe, Arizona.

Since we had so much fun last month, we decided to do a few Periscope broadcasts featuring Copper City Bourbon from AZ Distilling Co. (also in Arizona) earlier this month, with a focus on classic cocktails. A Manhattan? Sure! A Boulevardier? Of course (I am a big fan of the Negroni, after all), but after that… I felt stuck. I reached out to my friend Luke Detraz of Southern Wine & Spirits, who always has a creative solution to any cocktail-related issue, and he suggested I try a Shamrock cocktail, a classic created by an Irishman in the 1920s. What could be more appropriate? Nothing. Nothing, I say!

I’ll be honest with you. I read the recipe and had no idea what I was getting into. Whiskey? YES. Green Chartreuse? Hell yes! Creme de Menthe?! Uh…. Olive garnish? What the…?! But I made it, and it was spectacular. Seriously. Well-balanced, a little herbal, cool from the creme de menthe, and the brininess from the olive brought it all together. If you like dirty martinis, you’ll be a fan. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself.

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The Shamrock Cocktail

The Shamrock Cocktail: Recipe

  • 1.5oz Copper City Bourbon
  • 1.5oz French Vermouth (In this case, I used Lillet Blanc)
  • .25oz Green Chartreuse
  • .25oz Creme de Menthe
  • Garnish with green olive

Add the Copper City Bourbon, Lillet Blanc, Green Chartreuse, & creme de menthe to a chilled mixing glass. Add ice and stir until well-chilled (look for condensation on the outside of the mixing glass, and it should be very cold to the touch). Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with an olive.

I know, it’s not very green–put down the Midori! Perhaps you should either give up and go drink green beer, or try making it with a green creme de menthe for your desired holiday cheer. But sit back, enjoy every sip, and tell everyone you’re staying in for St. Patty’s Day–less crowds, better drinks, lower chances of ending up in someone’s Facebook photo doing something stupid.

Cheers! And as always–drink responsibly. If you drink, please, DO NOT drive.

 

*This post was sponsored by Arizona Distilling Company.

 

Things to Do: Mixology 101 at Jade Bar

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People are always asking me about cocktails–the history, how to make them, and where to go to get great cocktails in town. One of my favorite places to go is Jade Bar at the Sanctuary. Nestled on iconic Camelback Mountain in Paradise Valley, Sanctuary is a luxurious, yet approachable resort, and their Jade Bar is one of my favorite places to watch the legendary desert sunsets of Phoenix while sipping on a classic cocktail. (They also have a pretty killer happy hour, called The Pour, so you can enjoy the great service and relaxing ambiance while on a budget!)

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Jade Bar’s mixologists have launched their Mixology 101 course for the spring, and it couldn’t be better timing. Have friends coming into town for the Barrett-Jackson classic car auction or the WM Phoenix Open, and you need a break from all the action? (Or, worse, they’re in town and they HATE golf and classic cars… and some really epic people-watching?) If they’re of age, and they love to enjoy a cocktail or two, bring them to Mixology 101 on Saturdays at noon.

Classes are limited to 20 people per class and only $35 per person. What does this 3 hour cocktail experience include? Guests will learn cutting edge techniques (& hello, lots of delicious & generous cocktail samples!), get the inside scoop on jade bar’s freshness philosophy, spirit details and the history behind the libations they are concocting–the bartenders are well-versed in their craft, and they definitely will keep your interest. And don’t worry, you won’t be drinking on an empty stomach, as dishes from jade bar’s popular small plates menu will be served throughout each session. (No one likes to be buzzed and hangry, am I right?)

The schedule is as follows, though they’re skipping February 13th for Arizona Cocktail Week–which, if you haven’t heard of AZCW, you should definitely check it out! (Seminars, dinners, fun cocktail events… the list goes on and on!)

January 23 – Gin
January 30 – Tequila
February 6 – Rum
February 13 [NO CLASS] – Arizona Cocktail Week.
February 20 – American Whiskeys
February 27 – Scotch
March 5 – Brandies of the World
March 12 – Liqueurs

Mixology 101: Saturdays at jade bar * 12pm * $35 per person (plus tax and gratuity)* Limit 20 guests; Reservations required.

 

Negroni Week in the PHX

Image from negroniweek.com

Image from negroniweek.com

Negroni Week is here! Negroni Week is here!

DISCLAIMER: If your drink of choice is a vodka/soda water, or GOD FORBID, whipped cream vodka, you may want to skip this post entirely. (Hey, I’m just trying to save you some time here.)

Wait, wait. Let me back up for a second. First of all, I love me a good Negroni. What’s in a Negroni, you ask? It’s a classic cocktail, made of equal parts of gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari, an apertif that is slightly sweet, spicy, yet bitter. Combine all ingredients in a glass full of ice, stir, & enjoy the smooth, bitter flavors as they wash over your palate.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s get into Negroni Week, shall we? It started on June 1 (yeah, sue me, I’m late. My original blog post is wandering around aimlessly in the interwebs), and runs until June 7. Negroni Week was created in 2013 by the fine folks at Imbibe Magazine and Campari to celebrate of one of the world’s most wonderful cocktails (and its variations!), as well as to raise money for charitable causes around the world. From its inception, Negroni Week has grown from over 100 participating bars to more than 1,300 bars around the world participating & has raised more than $120,000 for charities! See? Drinking can be good for you!

As a lover of classic cocktails, and especially the Negroni, here are a few of the places I will be checking out through June 7th:

Photo by cwgalli.

Photo by cwgalli.

Crudo. Phoenix. Micah Olson is at it again… He created a cocktail that’s a refreshing take on a traditional Negroni, and I can’t wait to get it on my taste buds. They’re doing a saltwater-cured barrel to age their Negroni variation using Campari, Bols Genever, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, Cocchi Rosa, & watermelon. The barrel was cured with salt water to lend a little saltiness to the cocktail while it ages, which brings out the flavor of the watermelon and tones down the bitterness that is found in a Negroni. For the cocktail, they muddle a piece of watermelon in the bottom of the mixing glass and then add the cocktail, and stir with ice. The watermelon adds a refreshing note to the cocktail that is a welcome addition in the desert this time of year!

Bitter & TwistedPhoenix. I’m not sure if the boys behind the bar at B&T will be mixing up anything special for Negroni Week, but I can tell you that the setting is swanky, their cocktails are spot-on, and they’ll be donating to HALO Animal Rescue.

Traditional Negroni at Taggia at the Firesky Resort

Traditional Negroni at Taggia at the Firesky Resort

Taggia at Firesky. Scottsdale. Steph Teslar is a badass behind the bar, and the Bar Ambassador for all three Kimpton properties in the state of Arizona. In addition to the traditional Negroni, they’ll be serving up a Portofino, made with 2 ounces of Campari, a pinch of salt (stirred until dissolved), a large orange peel, and topped off with Lemon Soda from Pelligrino, and garnished with a sprig of rosemary. This cocktail isn’t messing around!

Nook Kitchen's Negroni Sbagliato

Nook Kitchen’s Negroni Sbagliato

Nook Kitchen. Phoenix.  I recently discovered Nook Kitchen, a great little neighborhood restaurant with great wood-fired pizzas & a menu I need to keep exploring (we’ll discuss their poutine in a future post. It. Is. Amazing). They have a Negroni Sbagliato on their menu, and it’s light, bubbly, and the sweetness of the Campari shines through. Made with Bull Dog Gin, Campari, sweet vermouth, sparkling wine, & orange bitters, it’s perfect for happy hour or brunch!

There are plenty of other favorites that are a part of Negroni Week, but let’s be real here–there’s only one of me, and I only have one liver. If the places I listed aren’t up your alley, check out The Gladly, Linger Longer Lounge, or Shady’s in Phoenix, or The Upton, Counter Intuitive (if you haven’t been yet, GO!), Roka Akor, or Bourbon Steak in Scottsdale!

To get the full list of Arizona bars participating in Negroni Week, as well as the charities they are donating proceeds to, click here (select Country & State). I want to see where you go to enjoy your Negroni–please use hashtags #NegroniWeek and #boozemafia on Twitter & Instagram!

Cheers, and PLEASE–designate a driver or get an Uber or Lyft to get you home safely!