Good Riddance, 2016: A Guide to NYE

Ah, 2016. While you were full of work, travel, & fun, you also kind of SUCKED… leading to an abundance of cocktails with friends to cope. But alas, just as all good things must come to an end, so must the crappy things. Let’s celebrate, shall we?

Whether you’re looking to party, go to a swanky dinner, or just hang out at home & enjoy some champagne, I’ve got you covered with a few of my favorite places in the PHX!

Party, Party, Party!

delete_rokaFairmont Scottsdale: Casino Royale New Year’s Eve Party
I know, I know. You’re SO surprised, but yeah, I will be celebrating NYE at the Fairmont this year, and it should be an incredible time! Starting at 9pm on December 31, join me in ringing in the New Year at The Plaza Bar with a night at Casino Royale, with entertainment by DJ Tommy Roberts, dancing and specialty cocktails. They are encouraging themed attire, though I’m opting for cocktail attire to go with my bourbon cocktails & champagne! They will have VIP table and bottle service, which you can reserve by calling 480.585.2694. Entry is $25 per person, but it’s complimentary if dining at any resort restaurant the same evening, so be sure to check out Bourbon Steak (classic steakhouse with a local flare), La Hacienda (a modern take on Mexican cuisine complemented by their incredible tequila bar), or the hidden gem located on the TPC golf course, Toro Latin Restaurant & Rum Bar, which features unique dishes with distinct flavors of South and Central America in a casual, atmosphere… did I mention they have one of the largest selections of rum in the Valley? Be sure to get a cocktail or two to pair with your food! For more info, visit:   http://www.scottsdaleprincess.com/Seasonal-Events

Counter Intuitive: Okay, a shameless plug for a client–but it’s a good one, so bear with me! Known for their innovative cocktails, limited hours, & changing themes, Counter Intuitive has been making its mark on the cocktail scene, both here in town, as well as all over the country! They’re offering two seating times–7:30pm to 10pm ($80 per person), and 10:30pm to 1am ($150 per person)–which includes 7 (yes. SEVEN) signature cocktails of your choice, and the entire cocktail menu is available to choose from! They’ll also be offering bottles of Veuve Cliquot ($100 each) and the 10:30pm seating includes a champagne toast at midnight! Snag your ticket(s) here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/nye-a-very-counter-intuitive-new-years-eve-tickets-30525441417?utm_term=eventurl_text {133 E Stetson Dr #4, Scottsdale, AZ 85251}

Jade Bar at the Sanctuary Resort: Sanctuary has some of the best views in the Valley, coupled with an incredible spa, wonderful dining at elements, & great craft cocktails at the renowned Jade Bar. Ring in 2017 with a sophisticated sit-down affair at elements or join in Scottsdale’s biggest New Year’s Eve bash at jade bar. There will be two seatings at elements–5:30–7pm, priced at $150 per person; and from 8-10:30pm, is priced at $185, & includes a complimentary Champagne toast, party favors and admission to the Jade Bar celebration–but both featuring an inspired four-course menu by Chef MacMillan. Looking for the party? At Jade Bar, the party runs from 8pm-1am, with a DJ spinning hits–you’re going to want to hit the dance floor! The Dining and Entertainment Package includes a four-course prix fixe holiday menu, bottle of Champagne, and party favors, priced at $1,000 for a table of four and $1,500 for a table of six. Please note: Tax and gratuity are additional, and space is limited. Hurry & make your reservations by calling 480-607-2300. More information is available at www.sanctuaryaz.com. {5700 E McDonald Dr, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253}

Swanky Dinners

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First course at Roka Akor: The Wagyu Beef Tataki, Truffle Onion Vinaigrette & Rock Chive.

Roka Akor: Roka knows how to pull out all the stops to make a night out extra special, and NYE is no exception! It’s one of my favorite restaurants in Scottsdale, as everything is high quality, from the sushi, to the steaks, to the cocktails, with extraordinary attention to detail. They’re offering a 5-course tasting menu (minimum of 2 people), featuring some of their amazing sushi, seafood, & steaks, along with other premium items prepared on their signature robata menu. Seatings are at 7pm & 9pm, for $98 per person. For more information & to make a reservation, visit their site: http://www.rokaakor.com/scottsdale/new-years-eve-dinner/ {7299 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85258; (480) 306-8800}

 

Second Story Liquor Bar: SSLB is dark, swanky, sexy, and has an extensive collection of whiskey & bourbon, making it one of my favorite places to pony up to the bar–especially since my friend Clint (aka “Spotty”) recently took over the reins & revamped their cocktail menu! They’re having a Purple Rain themed dinner & dance party, starting at 7:30pm on December 31st. Enjoy food from Chef Jason McGrath (who has been getting some rave reviews!) with champagne & cocktails from the bar–seating is limited, so don’t miss out! For more information & to purchase tickets, visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/purple-rain-new-years-eve-scottsdale-tickets-30318136362?aff=fbpurplerain {4166 North Scottsdale Road, #102; Scottsdale, AZ 85251}

For the Homebodies: The Classic Champagne Cocktail

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For those of you choosing to celebrate at home, I salute you!! There’s wisdom in avoiding the crowds, spending all the money, and oh! The Uber surge pricing!! I do hope that champagne is part of your evening, and thanks to the Mixology 101 class on Champagne Cocktails at the Sanctuary Resort‘s Jade Bar, I have a little cocktail recipe for you… the classic Champagne Cocktail! (And be sure to check out the Mixology 101 classes–they’re held every Saturday–starting up again on January 7–at noon, for $40 per person. Great way to spend an afternoon with a date or with a bunch of friends!) Okay, okay, back to it. Jazz up your Champagne, Prosecco, or Cava with this super simple recipe!

Champagne Cocktail

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters (available at
  • Chilled Brut Champagne
  • Twist of Lemon(s)
  • Champagne flute

Instructions:

Place a sugar cube in a chilled champagne flute. Add 3 dashes of Angostura bitters, fill the glass with Brut champagne (sparkling wine, Prosecco work, too!), and squeeze a lemon twist on top. Serve. Enjoy many.

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Champagne by quinnanya / CC BY

So, Happy New Year, you crazy kids!! Have fun celebrating, kiss a stranger or two, but please, please, PLEASE get around safely–I’m a big fan of Uber, Lyft, taxi services, or just plain old staying home. But BE SAFE. (Yeah, yeah. Drink responsibly!)

I’m Thankful for… This Cocktail.

Shockingly enough, when I’m invited to a dinner or potluck situation, my friends typically ask me to bring booze or choose a cocktail to make for the occasion. Thanksgiving is no exception. I’m going chow down with some friends, and what better way to give thanks than throwing back a couple delicious cocktails & getting sauced while shoving copious amounts of food down your gullet? There is no better way, I say!

I decided I wanted to do some sort of fall/Thanksgiving-themed cocktail, but don’t you worry–there’s no “turkey fat washed” anything, or weird garnishes involving meat or stuffing. This is quick, easy, and to the point. After all, if you’re spending all your time prepping the food, you want to maintain a mild, steady buzz in the simplest way possible, right? Short of drinking straight from a bottle of whiskey, this little bubbly concoction should have you covered!

 

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The Recipe

What you need:

  • A bottle of Prosecco–it doesn’t have to be fancy. Or hell, pick up more, especially if your family is high-maintenance. Get home & throw it in the fridge. No one likes warm bubbly.
  • Cranberry Juice (Ocean Spray should do the trick. You really don’t want to be traipsing into Whole Foods RIGHT before Thanksgiving to get organic, super tart cranberry juice harvested by consenting bog farmers, do you?)
  • A couple limes to squeeze. Or, make it simpler & get the lime juice in a bottle, though I always prefer fresh-squeezed. (Go ahead. Call me a hipster. I dare you.)
  • Simple Syrup (You can make it yourself using this recipe from Food & Wine–it’s easy! Or you can buy it, you lazy bum.)

See? Easy, right? Now, to mix it up and get you *ahem* relaxed before everyone comes over…

How to Make It

Dump 1 oz cranberry juice, 1 tbsp lime juice, and 1 tsp simple syrup into a shaker full of ice. Shake it up until your fingers start feeling cold. Pour the chilled mixture into a champagne flute. (Or a lager glass. Whatever floats your boat.) Fill the rest of the glass with the chilled Prosecco, give it a quick stir, and you’re done! Garnish with a couple cranberries or a wedge of lime, if you so desire.

Now, the most important part. DRINK IT.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday, folks. Find something to be thankful for, and toast with those you love.

And please, please, PLEASE–don’t drink and drive. If you’re going to drink, don’t drive. You may end up hurting someone’s loved one(s), and yourself. Drink responsibly–I’ll thank you for it.

(Kentucky) Derby Drinkin’

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photo by joanie simon

Back in the day, I celebrated all the big drinking holidays with gusto.

Cinco de Mayo? Bring out the sombreros and crappy beer! St. Patrick’s Day? Green beer, drunk crowds, and long lines to the bathroom–I got this! Valentine’s Day? Oh, wait…

So, I’ve gotten to the point where I’m sick of having my feet stomped on, seeing people puke in public places, and hey, can y’all stop trying to hump each other in public? It’s embarrassing. No, really. Especially if you get caught with your pants down on Instagram.

This year, I’m classing it up with my lovely lady of Restaurant Live AZ fame, Joanie Simon, at the Phoenician resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, for the Kentucky Derby. (No, I’m not wearing a ginormous hat. They’re fabulous, but I can’t see or hear ANYTHING, and no one likes hat-hair.) We’ll be on the Orchid Lawn at The Phoenician on May 3rd from 1-4pm, to watch the Kentucky Derby (and silently judge headgear). You can enter the Winner’s Circle Raffle, and enjoy a Woodford Reserve Mint Julep with us, with some classic Southern-style fare to help soak up pair with the bourbon. For more info and to make a reservation, check out Joanie’s blog post!

Feel like wearing your big, swanky hat at home and making your own cocktails? I’ve got you covered, sugar. Check out this great recipe below for a classic Mint Julep from one of my favorite men behind the bar, Micah Olson of Bar Crudo in Phoenix.

Mint Julep

  • 7 mint leaves
  • 2.5 oz Bulleit Bourbon
  • 0.5 oz Simple Syrup
  • Crushed Ice

Combine mint and simple syrup in the bottom of a silver julep cup (or highball glass) and lightly muddle the mint. Next, add the bourbon and fill the cup with crushed ice–make sure to pour off the excess water first. Garnish with a bunch of mint to make it is impossible to drink your mint julep without burying your nose in mint.

Cheers, and please, drink responsibly!

The Margarita: the AZ Bitters Lab Way

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Mmm.
Photo by Michael Napoleon

As some of you may know, I do NOT like tequila. Not because it’s evil or tastes bad, but because it can make sweet, little me into a raging monster. Sometimes. Okay, most of the time. And no one likes a hostile boozer.

But, National Tequila Day is tomorrow, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t share one of my favorite margarita recipes with you. It’s simple, it’s delicious, and oh–it has my favorite, Más Mole bitters, from AZ Bitters Lab in it.

Margarita Tommy-Style (as featured on the AZBL website)

  • 2 oz reposado or añejo tequila
  • 1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 oz agave syrup (half agave nectar, half water)
  • 1-2 dashes of AZBL Más Mole bitters

Add all ingredients in to a shaker, add ice, shake for 20 seconds, double strain into a rocks glass filled with ice, and drink up!!

To get your own Más Mole bitters, visit AZBL online & get some here: http://azbitterslab.com/shop/

And remember–always booze responsibly!

Summertime: Orange Dreamsicle Martini

As a child, I remember running to the ice cream truck in the summers and always getting my favorite, the Orange Creamsicle. But now that I’m an adult, it’d probably be a little creepy if I made a mad dash toward an ice cream truck in my stilettos, don’t you think? (Sidebar: Were ice cream trucks always so creepy?!)

So, when it came time for my appearance on Restaurant Live AZ podcast with my friend Susie Timm, I considered making an Orange Creamsicle cocktail. Susie said that this drink “makes feel like a child, running through fresh-cut grass, barefoot.” And so, I present you with my take on this deliciousness.

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Dreamsicle in my Kitchen

Orange Dreamsicle Martini

1 oz Whipped Cream vodka
1 oz Triple Sec
1.5 oz orange juice
1.5 oz half & half

Shake with ice in shaker, served up. You can top it with whipped cream, if you’d like–you know you want to!

And as always… Please booze responsibly!

Boozin’ on Vacation: Dragon Silk

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Dragon Silk

I recently went to Maui on vacation, and thanks to my food nerd friends, I had plenty of great restaurants to check out… but not one recommendation for a great place to have cocktails while there. On my last night in Maui, I ended up going to Star Noodle and ponying up to the bar on my own to check out the food and, possibly, find a cocktail worth writing about.

I had the pleasure of chatting with one of the bartenders, Zane. He was funny and engaging, and told me he could make me a bourbon cocktail that would knock my sand-encrusted sandals off. And guess what? It totally did. He was inspired by a friend’s trip to South America, where she enjoyed Pisco Sours almost daily–she was craving something similar, but with bourbon, and Zane created the cocktail he calls “Dragon Silk.”

Recipe*:

​2 oz Jack Daniels or any bourbon
0.5 oz Aperol
1 Egg white
0.75 oz Fresh Lime sour
Nigori Sake

Directions:

In cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine egg white, bourbon, Aperol, and fresh lime sour. Cover, shake vigorously for 15 seconds, and strain into six-ounce cocktail glass. Top with Nigori sake, garnish with a slice of pear.

*Note: Measurements are approximate, as it’s a secret recipe. Try it out and let me know what you think!

The Aviation Cocktail

The Aviation Cocktail

The Aviation Cocktail

I recently visited Market Street Kitchen in Scottsdale, Arizona, and had the opportunity to sample Aviation Gin, a new offering in Arizona from House Spirits. It’s botanical, but clean–none of that fierce juniper flavor that you get in gins like Tanqueray. Aviation is a dry gin, which is a shift away from the usual overabundance of juniper toward a balance of botanicals. Aviation explores notes of lavender, cardamom, and sarsaparilla to capture the lushness and creativity of the Pacific Northwest. Aviation claims to offer the American palate its first real taste of American gin.

Market Street Kitchen just rolled out their new Spring menu, and The Aviation Cocktail, a classic, is featured on their cocktail menu. My friend Rich Heider, the bar manager at MSK and a brand supporter of House Spirits, whipped up this gorgeous drink for me, & I was instantly charmed by its lightly tart & floral notes, and its pale blue/violet hue. Get to Market Street Kitchen to get your own, or make your own at home with the recipe below.

The Aviation Cocktail

  • 1.5oz Aviation Gin
  • 1 tsp Creme de Violette
  • 0.5oz Maraschino liqueur
  • 0.75oz Freshly pressed lemon juice
  • 0.25oz Simple Syrup

In a pint glass or cocktail shaker, add spirits & mixers. Fill with ice. Shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Suggested garnish: Cherry on a pick. (Recipe provided by Aviation Gin.)

Cheers!