Thursday, May 28, 2015

3 Athens Rooftop Bars with Acropolis Views

Acropolis Point Cocktails at Herodion Hotel Athens Rooftop Bars

No matter where you are in Athens the Acropolis towers above, ever present.  Somehow, the sight of the Acropolis just never gets old.  The Acropolis shines even more at night when the Parthenon and other temples are lit when the sun goes down.  If you haven’t had enough looks at the Acropolis, you can head to one of these three Athens rooftop bars, each providing stunning views of the Acropolis from different angles accompanied by a cocktail.

Point α Bar at Herodion Hotel

Acropolis View from Point α Bar at Herodion Hotel Athens Rooftop Bars

After spending the afternoon watching the sun go down from atop the Acropolis, you can head down the hill for a drink at Point α Bar, the rooftop garden bar of Athens’ Herodion Hotel, so your views of the Acropolis don’t have to end.

Point α Bar is the closest Athens rooftop bar to the Acropolis and has a view from the south.  Its placemats proudly proclaim that the Parthenon Temple is only 289 meters away.  Point α Bar’s rooftop view is also unique because you not only see the Acropolis, you also see the New Acropolis Museum, only 85 meters away.  It’s like having two views of the Acropolis, as the top floor of the museum, which is lit at night, is set up like the Parthenon and has many of the Parthenon’s original statues and friezes.

New Acropolis Museum View from Point α Bar at Herodion Hotel Athens Rooftop Bars

All of the cocktails on Point α Bar’s cocktail list except for the classic cocktails were created by Point α Bar’s bartender Lefteris Sofatzis, who goes by Lefty.  Point α Bar’s rooftop garden bar has been open for three seasons (May to October) and Lefty has been there for two of them.  Lefty has won cocktail competitions with his concoctions.

Point α Bar at Herodion Hotel Bartender Lefteris Sofatzis Athens Rooftop Bars

Point α Bar’s cocktails are unique and inventive, which was a special surprise because cocktails don’t really seem to be as much of a thing around Greece as they are in other countries.  The Hellas Fashioned is a play on an Old Fashioned, made with Metaxa 5 Star brandy, sugar, angostura bitters, and rose water.  The 3 Cardinals is a melon flavored cocktail, but not too sweet, made with Midori, Frangelico, elderflower syrup, fresh lime juice, and fresh orange juice.

Point α Bar’s cocktail list also includes classic cocktails, like the Wisecrack Fizz, and Tapas Cocktails, which are made to pair with tapas like the Mediterranean Basil Smash made with ouzo, lime juice, sugar, pink pepper, and basil, which pairs with shrimp ceviche.  Point α Bar also serves dinner during the warm months of the year.

Air Lounge Bar & Restaurant at Fresh Hotel

Acropolis View from Air Lounge Bar Fresh Hotel Athens Rooftop Bars

For a view of the north side of the Acropolis, head to Fresh Hotel’s rooftop restaurant and bar Air Lounge.  Fresh Hotel is a modern, fun, brightly colored hotel just north of the Psiri neighborhood.  The restaurant and bar are located on the ninth floor alongside the pool. 

Fresh Hotel Pool Athens Rooftop Bars

The restaurant serves modern Greek and Mediterranean cuisine and a good glass of wine for five euros.  The tables in the restaurant have views of the city, but walk out to the deck by the pool and you’ll be greeted with a view of the city and the Acropolis towering above.  The bar serves standard cocktails like daiquiris, mai tais, and piña coladas and also vintage cocktails including Singapore slings, manhattans, and Moscow mules.

GB Roof Garden at Hotel Grande Bretagne

Acropolis View from GB Roof Garden Athens Rooftop Bars

The GB Roof Garden at Hotel Grande Bretagne probably has the best angle for viewing the Acropolis as more of the temples can be seen from the east, but it also comes with a hefty price tag.  Hotel Grande Bretagne is a luxury hotel located across the street from Syntagma Square at the head of Athens’ shopping street Ermou.  The hotel is so fancy, I hear some suites even come with a butler. 

GB Roof Garden Cocktails Athens Rooftop Bars

The dress code at GB Roof Garden is elegant smart casual and a cocktail will run you 14 to 16 euros.  But the cocktails are good and so is the view.  One of the Bartender’s Signatures drinks is Flower Drops made with gin, mastiha liqueur, orange marmalade, flower water, lime juice, and orange bitters, garnished with a skewer of rosehips.  Every time I took a sip I was first greeted with the faint aroma of roses.  The Cocktail Collection by the Luxury Collection cocktails includes Tears of Chios made with vodka, mastiha, lime juice, and agave, and garnished with grapes and mint leaves.

GB Roof Garden Bar Athens Rooftop Bars

There are many bars throughout Athens and many rooftop bars in the world, but a rooftop bar with a view of the Acropolis just isn’t something you can experience anywhere else, so be sure to hit up one or all of these bars during your next trip to Greece. 

Thank you to Point at Herodion Hotel and Fresh Hotel for hosting our evenings at their rooftop bars and making this post possible.  As always, all opinions are my own.  

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Don't Dismiss Your Fermented Travel Dreams After Kids

"Honey, I'm pregnant."

Those 3 words - no matter if you hear them or say them -are followed by a range of emotions. Joy, fear, anger, etc...those 3 words mean that your life is going to change.

Change is good though, right? You bet! But as someone who wasn't expecting to have children -or 2- my initial reaction was a few rungs down the ladder from "You bet".

Before kids: random beers with random folks in random hostels = normal
Before we received our 3 word news we were on a journey with no rules. We traveled to places you'd find in guidebooks. We spent hours upon hours - from sun down to sun up 1 night in Prague - in bars and breweries soaking up local cultures. We went to work to fuel our travel habits. We had nothing holding us back from our goal of going anywhere we wanted.

Then boom, a positive test. There was an endless stream of questions racing through my head -"Do we have to buy a house?", "How do I change a diaper?", and for me more often than not "Will we ever travel again?" Along with that last question was the wonder if we'd ever be able to re-live those beer garden moments now that we had to be "responsible" parents.

If you're a soon to be parent or someone on the fence about having kids I'm here to tell you that you can still have those moments. How do I know this you ask? Well, I read books to my kids before bed 99% of the year and still manage to write about new beer travels. And since school is almost out and summer travel season is upon us I'd like to offer some advice to finding new drinks in fun places with your kids.

Kids are as excited to see new things as you are. Get them on a plane
  • The most important tip to remember is please ignore the notion that you're crazy to travel with kids beyond grandmas's house. Haters are gonna hate -hate, hate hate, hate- but don't let their boring life keep you grounded. Seeing the wonder in your kids eyes as your plane takes off or when they see a mountain for the first time is indescribable for parents who traveled before having kids.  Your only change from pre-kids is getting to describe to your wide eyed kids what they are looking at and what it means.
Getting ready for her beer science experiment
  • Breweries are a science experiment in every kettle. What kid doesn't love science? Seriously, it's not just about the free beer at the end anymore. Craft brewers love to tell you about their trade, and tours have turned into a wonderful behind the scenes of what is happening in their kettles. Going on a brewery tour for a kid is a great lesson in chemistry without messing up your own kitchen with that damn volcano project. Plus there are now many kid friendly breweries waiting to welcome your whole family with games, specialty sodas for the kids, and more. 
Don't just sit, sip, and dump your wine anymore. Find the grapes and have fun with your kids
  • Wineries have changed from tasting rooms with views of the vines and large dump buckets to family fun destinations. From petting zoos and swimming pools to gondola rides and tours the vines themselves, wineries are not just an adult destination anymore. After your brewery science experiment your kids will enjoy the outdoor fun in a peaceful setting while you enjoy the wine. 
A nice salami appetizer before our pizza and mead (best behaved in the whole place)
  • Hit the brewpubs and tasting rooms with a full food menu for meals. Not every town you travel to will have a full brewery or winery to tour, but that doesn't mean you can't quench your thirst for local flavors. The food at these establishments are carefully thought out and -like the beverages being hand crafted there- are far superior to mass produced chain meals. Go out and get your kids the 4 cheese mac and cheese and yourself the local take on a farmhouse ale. That's a win win.
The HB baby! Don't forget who you are once you have kids
I get it, nothing is as easy - since having kids - as snapping your fingers and poof your family is a on a plane. There's school, t-ball, money, and more on the table. Plus in the back of your mind there's that little voice that says "should I really be at a brewery with my kids"? Before kids we were in a large beer hall in Germany with friends and their baby. I wondered how they didn't skip a beat. Once we had our kids I understood there were 2 things going on.

1) Never forget who you actually are- if that's a traveler who likes to try local drinks then don't become someone else or you'll resent your kids. Everyday routine may change, but you don't have to change who you are. And 2) Show your kids what you love to do. They'll find the travel fascinating and you may even inspire the future of Master Brewers.  As always though -especially in front of the kids- drink responsibly so you can travel even more with them. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

3 Cool Bars in Stockholm for a Cocktail

ICEBAR by ICEHOTEL Stockholm Bar Cool Bars in Stockholm Sweden

Stockholm has a lot of bars from which to choose, but during our travels we encountered three cool bars in Stockholm.  They are a bit unusual, and certainly not your everyday bar.  Two are located in Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town which used to be touristy but lately has become trendy and a popular place for locals to go for after work drinks and dinner.  The first of these cool bars in Stockholm harkens back to the days of Lord Nelson with its nautical old-world theme, the second joins the new trend of pop-ups, and the third is cooler than cool, it's ice cold.


Tweed Bar Cool Bars in Stockholm Sweden

Tweed is the type of bar I wish we had at home.  The stage is set when guests are greeted with a sign that says, “Hello!  Dearest guest if you would kindly wait here and we will make sure you can sit comfortably with a fancy cocktail or a super hip beer.”  The walls are covered in tweed fabric and decorated with seafaring items like lanterns, mastheads, and lifesavers.  The best part of the décor is the mahogany tufted leather Chesterfield armchairs which can be reserved. 

Tweed Gothenburg Cocktail Cool Bars in Stockholm Sweden

Tweed is part of a group of bars and restaurants whose owners also own The Collector’s Hotels Victory, Lady Hamilton, and Lord Nelson.  The owners clearly have a thing for Lord Nelson and a number of Lord Nelson memorabilia also decorate Tweed.  Continuing with the Lord Nelson theme, the cocktail list contains eight drinks inspired by eight ports of call, both past and present. 

Tweed Punsch and Rum Cool Bars in Stockholm Sweden

My drink of choice was the Gothenburg, named after West Sweden’s port city.  The Gothenburg is made with aquavit, Swedish punsch, grenadine, and lemon juice, and is served in a delicate tea cup, kept cold with an exceptionally large ice cube, and garnished with a pipe made of licorice.  It was a little reminiscent of prohibition to be drinking an alcoholic beverage out of a teacup.  Romeo had the Cabo Trafalgar made with bourbon whisky, Amaro Montenegro, Amontillado (a Sherry wine), and bitters.  Even perusing Tweed’s straight alcohol menu is amusing.  Under vodka is the comment, “No.  We don’t have Red Bull booze.”


Bottles Popup Bar Cocktails Cool Bars in Stockholm Sweden

Bottles is a cool Stockholm popup bar run by the same people who own Tweed.  Bottles can be found in a new location every month.  Each new location comes with a new list of cocktails to match the theme of the location.  For instance, when we visited, Bottles was housed in the breakfast room of the Lady Hamilton Hotel and was going by the name Breakfast by Bottles.  Cocktails had a breakfast theme, like The Granola with Marille, Pechuga del Maguey, grapefruit, and almond.

Our drinks of choice were the Holiday in the Sun and the Earl Emerald.  Holiday in the Sun was made with raspberry flavored Mariënburg Rum 81%, minted sugar, and Peychaud’s bitters.  The Earl Emerald was a concoction of vodka, pain d'épices syrup, and dry apple cider.  Not only were the cocktails delicious, they also looked cool with Bottles’ special-made ice cubes etched with the Bottles logo.


ICEBAR by ICEHOTEL Stockholm Bar and Bartender Cool Bars in Stockholm Sweden

Traveling to Sweden but won’t have a chance to stay in the ICEHOTEL in Swedish Lapland?  You can get a taste of what it’s like by visiting the ICEBAR by ICEHOTEL Stockholm, the coolest bar in Stockholm, literally.  Just like the ICEHOTEL, Stockholm’s ICEBAR is a cool and steady -5 degrees Celsius.  Visitors to the ICEBAR don special winter capes and gloves before entering the frigid bar.  Everything in the bar is made of ice from the Torne River: the walls, the bar, the tables, the chairs, and the drink glasses.

ICEBAR by ICEHOTEL Stockholm Cocktails Cool Bars in Stockholm Sweden

While the ICEBAR isn’t necessarily someplace you will spend an entire evening, it is a fun and cool bar to hang out at for a drink or two.  Drinks are inspired by Swedish Lapland and the art suites of the ICEHOTEL for the season.  For instance, I had the Wolf Paw, a drink inspired by the Polar Night art suite and made with vodka, lingonberry juice, and lingonberries.  Rome had the Windy, a mixture of vodka, Cartron Lychee, orange juice, and cranberry juice.

ICEBAR by ICEHOTEL Stockholm Walls and Table Cool Bars in Stockholm Sweden

While it is possible to drop-in at the ICEBAR, it is recommended to make a reservation as the bar is small and only a certain number of people are allowed in at any time.  Admission includes an ice glass and one drink, and additional drinks can be purchased at a reduced price when using the same ice glass.  Guests of the Nordic C Hotel receive a discount on admission.

For your next trip to Stockholm, put one or more of these unusual bars on your list for a quick after work or a relaxing end to an evening.  The cocktails in these cool Stockholm bars are made even tastier by their unique and unusual surroundings.

This post was made possible in part by Tweed and the ICEBAR by ICEHOTEL Stockholm.  As always, all opinions are my own.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Nebraska Brewing Company Brews and Baseball Travel In Omaha

Take me out to the ballgame. Take me out with the crowd. Buy me! That's right, the boys of summer (and spring and fall) are back to well manicured ball fields around the country. The air is filled with the glorious smells of hot dog vendors, the words "Beer Here", and the sound of composite metal bats. Wait, metal? That's right, metal bats still shape the landscape of much of America. And our newest feature happens to take place in Omaha, NE, aka the home of the College World Series.

It is true that the Omaha area also supports a AAA baseball team but, when it comes to travel, the CWS is what draws in legions of folks from around the country and beyond. CWS is of one of the premier annual baseball events in the US. You may shake your head and say that it's only college baseball, but like I said this is an event. 2 weeks of celebrating baseball under the warm summer sun with an average yearly attendance above 330,000 makes Omaha a pilgrimage spot for fans of baseball. Put that together with tournaments that coincide with the CWS all over the city (and again that hot summer sun) and you have a lot of thirsty travelers. Good thing there is a brewery in Omaha that has a beer with a baseball bat on it for everyone. Let me introduce you to Nebraska Brewing Company.

The original Nebraska Brewing Company Brewpub
Nebraska Brewing Company is one of the first craft breweries to pop up in the Omaha area over the past decade. The original location for Nebraska Brewing Company is a brewpub, which opened in 2007. This location is still in full operation with a full menu, full bar, and test brewing operation for new ideas. The brewpub location is where all the magic began for the brewery. Like many of the breweries we visit, the founding of the Nebraska Brewing Company has it's roots in home brewing. When the home brew moved to a full functioning brewery the recipes blossomed into award winning beers for the brewery.

Everything is way more fun when the Tap Room sign says open
When those awards started to tumble in and demand was out running supply, the Nebraska Brewing Company expanded to a second location. This location is a large production brewery with a fantastic tap room. It also gives the brewery more space to do what they do (in my opinion) better than anyone in the area, barrel age beers. One of the other positives that came from expanding into a larger facility was the ability for canning of beer, another first in the area. For baseball fans traveling for their CWS pilgrimage, canned craft beer makes for a much easier tailgate.

Hello HopAnomaly
So, in the name of research, I ventured out to both locations (CWS is right around the corner remember so there was no time to lose). First stop was the Nebraska Brewing Company Brewpub. Not only did the brewpub have many brews on tap, but they had great food as well. But food was so last week, I was here for the beer. The first beer I tucked in to was the HopAnomaly, a crossbreed Tripel/WC IPA. Side note- I am very excited that Tripels are making their way on to the American craft beer scene. My HopAnomaly was a big beer (high ABV, heavy hops) but yet very fun to drink. There was a lot of fruit in the aroma and taste, with the ever popular grapefruit making an appearance along with some sweet fruit as well. For a big beer, HopAnomaly was a smooth easy drink. This beer is only available on tap, but that's ok because when you hit Omaha you want to find the brewery anyway.

Everything tastes better when you drink next to the tanks
Next up was the flagship brew at Nebraska Brewing Company, the Cardinal Pale Ale. Clean, clear and crisp...those are the ways to describe this American Pale Ale. The Cardinal Pale has a little more hop bitterness than some American Pales out there, but don't be scared off. This was another refreshing ale and is a great start to your craft beer education.  This brew is a multi-award winning ale and is available in cans for your tailgate! I still suggest a brewery stop as well as tailgating with cans, because everything tastes great surrounded by large fermenters.

Drink the Saison, seriously go get one now!
After hitting the brewpub, I needed to (again in the name of research) hit the Nebraska Brewing Company Tap Room as well. One of my main reasons for that was to try the award winning barrel aged brews on tap (they are available at the brewpub, but only in 750 ml bottles). My first choice was the Apricot Au Poivre Saison (I'm a giant Farmhouse Ale fan). Like other saisons this one had a great fruit start with the added flavor of apricot (obviously) and a "spicy" finish, but it was also a little juiced up. Many saisons/farmhouse ales are on the lower end of alcohol content, but the Nebraska Brewing Company Saison is not light at all. It's a smooth beer that I would almost put into the Grand Cru category (because Grand Cru really is just a jump started Belgian Ale). The barrel aging surely gives this ale a jump start. Find this beer and drink this beer, that's an order.

Whoa Black Betty, bam,-ba-lam
I saved the best for last. I've had many stouts in my life and liked many of those for one flavor or another. I am here today to claim that I have now found my favorite overall Imperial Stout. Shut the door and leave your keys on the floor, because the Black Betty Russian Imperial Stout barrel aged in whiskey barrels is the best in show. I may have hugged the guy in the Taco Bell drive thru (Happy Cinco de Mayo?) after I was done and told him my tale. The combination of chocolate and coffee notes along with the subtle whiskey sweetness makes me thirsty right now. There were hops in there, but they just blended with the malt and didn't overpower anything. I wanted to spoon up the head on this stout. It is a must drink beer, stout fan or not.

I had 4, come try those and many more!
Obviously Nebraska Brewing Company has a bigger lineup than those 4, but I'll let you tap the rest when you get to Omaha. If you're coming for the Greatest Show on Dirt (CWS), head out to one of the 2 brewery locations in between games, because you can't get a beer in TD Ameritrade Park for CWS games. If you are coming to Omaha for the AAA All-Star game, you're in luck because Ale Storm (another Nebraska Brewing Company brew) is available at Werner Park, home of the Stormchasers and the AAA All-Star game. If you are headed to Omaha this summer for any other reason but baseball (there are other reasons but who doesn't love baseball), find these beers. You'll have another reason to come back to Omaha after you've tried them.