Thursday, July 30, 2015

Unique Drinking Laws and Regulations To Know While Traveling

Unlike The Clash – or the Bobby Fuller Four for our more seasoned readers – I haven’t really fought it, so it never really won.
“Wait, I didn’t know someone else sang ‘Rock The Casbah’? I’m so confused!”
No I’m talking about the law, and in my head the first thing I think about when I see that word is constraints. Hell, when I think of law I think of red and blue lights, handcuffs and episodes of Locked up Abroad. I don’t know why, I must have an active imagination.
My oddness aside, the alcohol industry worldwide is home to some actual odd laws. As societies have grappled with the morality associated with alcohol – see US prohibition, banned alcohols such as absinthe, religious prohibition, etc – many unique laws have been born and remain on the books today.
So before you cram that final pair of sweatpants into your suitcase, take a gander through these unique boozy regulations to hopefully keep your glass full of something good while traveling.
Minimum Age Laws
Discreetly drinking under 21
How young is too young to enjoy a drink? If there was any time in my life that I really bucked the law – very discreetly – it was during those formative years between 16-21. Growing up in a place that has a very active drinking culture – hell Wisconsin (where I grew up) has a law on the books allowing minors to belly up to the bar with their parents – fueled curiosity, keggers on farms and late night calls to my parents for a ride. For those who would like to follow the law and travel at the same time, we offer you places to explore and have a drink without worrying about dumping out your hooch while an officer watches.
18 years and drinking-Most of the world isn’t that unique at all when it comes to the minimum drinking age. Over 60% of the countries in the world share a minimum age of 18 years old – a few of these countries like Canada have certain areas where the age is 19.
Everyone’s invited- That’s great news for backpackers looking to “find themselves” – and a beer – in  Europe while attending university (or high school if you’re headed to Spain, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, Germany, Portugal and a few others because the age is 16). Even better news for the youngsters among us, 19 countries have no minimum drinking age. 14 year old me will be meeting you in Bolivia soon for a Chuflay!
No Booze for You-The most important note to age laws is another subset of countries that have no age laws because alcohol is banned.  16 countries have made alcohol illegal and – with a few exceptions – anyone caught with it will face a stiff penalty. One country of note is Qatar because they will be hosting a large contingent of boozy travelers in the near future and I for one look forward to seeing how that is handled. Know before you go to these spots and respect the law, your drink will be waiting for you at home.
Blue Laws
Hmm...maybe Election Day alcohol bans could help us avoid obvious election fraud like this
It’s Sunday – or Election Day – and you’re relaxing in your hotel, hostel, luxury rental house, etc….and you’d rather chill than hit the bar again. No problem, send someone down to the local liquor market to pick up the days libations, right? Well, if you’re in one of these places you’ll either be hitting the bar or go dry on Sunday.
Norway- no alcohol sales on Sunday or Election Day

Chile- You’ll have to wait until Sunday afternoon and if it’s Election Day you’ll have to wait until the day after Election Day

Turkey- Election Day ban

Random thought: I feel like elections would look different in the US if we had Election Day alcohol bans.

Arkansas- no Sunday alcohol sales

Florida- 3 counties ban alcohol sales on Sunday (Lafayette, Liberty, and Washington). Luckily none of them are beach counties

Minnesota- The state has tried and tried to overturn this law, but you’ll still have to cross the border to Wisconsin on Sunday to get your booze.

Quirky Rules on Ingredients/Alcohol Content

It may not be "pure", but it's so damn good
When it comes to alcohol regulations, some of what seem to be the most petty and quirky live in the ingredient/ABV categories. New ways of doing things – see craft beer and craft distilling – are always shunned by the industry blue bloods. The big boys never want you to know that their way isn’t the only way something should taste. And when it comes to ABV, governments are fine with you getting drunk – because mmm those tasty tax dollars – but they know what too drunk is because of that whole morality thing again.

Reinheitsgebot- Yes you’ve heard of German purity when it comes to beer – especially in Bavaria – but did you know that for the most part the beer you are drinking in Germany doesn’t follow this law anymore? The original law stated that only water, barley, and hops could be used to brew beer. Anything else would not be able to go to market as beer. Since reunification in the early 90’s the law has been rewritten and thus wheat beers and other ales can be “beer” in Germany. Some breweries still brew near the Reinheitsgebot standard, but in reality your beer in Germany will have more than the original 3 ingredients.

Vodka in the EU- More purity from our crazy friends across the pond. EU Law states that traditional vodka can only be made from grains or potatoes and that any other “vodkas” out there that use fruits or veggies have to label that on the bottle and call themselves a distilled spirit as well as vodka. Huh? As long as it goes well with cranberry juice I’m set….unless there are any EU cranberry laws?

US Near Beer- Have you ever heard of “near beer”? If you have, you’ve probably been in certain US states – including that darn Minnesota again. Near beer is beer with 3.2% maximum ABV and is the only beer allowed in convenience/grocery stores in some states. If you’ve had near beer, you’ll know that it really isn’t worth drinking at all. It makes a regular Bud Light seem hearty. Make sure you know these states so you can avoid a gas station beer run. Hopefully with the rise of local breweries in the US, states will lift these rules to help distribution of craft beer and add to the convenience of beer purchasing in general.

Closing Time
Who played that damn song? I want another drink   photo courtesy Thomas's Pics
“One last call for alcohol, so finish your whisky or beer”. Worst song ever! Nobody likes it when the lights come up and big dude at the door starts wrangling people up. You’ve made it this long, no hunger pains or tiredness could stop you from getting another drink. Unfortunately the law in many places will stop you in your quest for drinking until the sun comes up. Lucky for all of us there are places out there that party through every shift. Bring your youthful spirit, you’ll need it.
Prague- Last call in Prague is normally around 2 am. But if you’ve wandered into a bar that has slot machines you can party around the clock. Seeing the sun come up after an all-nighter in a Prague bar is about as magical as it gets – for all-nighters that is.
Miami- Get your drink on, then your dance on, hit the beach and then start all over if you want to because the Downtown Entertainment District is 24/7.
New Orleans- Grab drinks in Frenchman, grab some beignets, then head to Bourbon before once again grabbing beignets. If I really wanted to go on a 72 hour bender, New Orleans would be my spot with the drinks and food. Luckily that dream can be played out because NOLA is 24/7 booze friendly.
Japan (anywhere)- No, not every bar in every city is open all night. But there is no mandated time to play Semisonic on the juke box in Japan. So head to Tokyo, wear your smiling emoji and have a night into morning of sake bombs – because you can.
Las Vegas- Because Vegas.
Belgium- If you’re walking home from the bar in Belgium – good on you for using those feet – and you have to relieve yourself, don’t do that outside. Other places take things more seriously than they may where you are from and the nation of great beer takes this seriously. Good thing you can duck into another bar open 24/7!
Just don’t do it, seriously. In the US driving under the influence is ridiculously tolerated. If you travel somewhere, drink a bunch and drive it’s on you. No crying when you get tossed in the slammer. We love to enjoy the local libations and then either use our feet, public transit or a cab. There is no reason to endanger folks because you had a good time. NONE!
After the DUI PSA, let's get back to the happy emoji
Obviously these are just a sampling of the unique laws you’ll run across when you are traveling. Don’t let these regulations put a damper on your good time though, the world is your liquor cabinet. Sometimes you just need to jiggle the key a different way to get it open. 
Are there any obscure alcohol laws in your part of the world that we didn’t hit? Let us know.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Wine of the Gods: Discovering Greek Wine in Crete

Anoskeli Vineyards Greek Wine Island of Crete
Photo courtesy Anoskeli
When you think of wine, do you think of Greece immediately?  I’m guessing you probably don’t.  Yet the Greeks have been making wine for thousands of years with grapes with names you may not recognize.  There’s even a Greek god of wine.  Greek wine regions can be found throughout the mainland and islands of Greece.  We received our Greek wine education on the island of Crete, first with a taste of Crete’s great wine paired with Cretan cuisine, and then with a behind-the-scenes tour of one of Crete’s great wineries, Anoskeli.

Greece is steeped in mythology, so of course there’s a Greek god of wine.  A proper Greek wine education isn’t complete without starting with a story involving Greek gods.

As many Greek mythology stories do, this story begins with Zeus and his hormones.  Zeus fell in love with Semele, a mortal.  He came to her at night when she couldn’t see him.  Semele felt very lucky to have a god for a lover, but she didn’t know which god it was.  Zeus’ wife Hera, with bad intentions, came to Semele in disguise and convinced her she should find out who her lover was.  Semele fell into the trap and asked her lover to grant her one wish.  He foolishly agreed and Semele asked him to reveal herself to him.  Zeus sadly had no choice and granted her wish.  Semele burst into flames from the sight of his glory.  Semele was pregnant, so the distraught Zeus rescued the fetus and stitched it into his thigh until it was ready to be born.  Dionysus was born from Zeus’ thigh and became the only god born of a mortal.

Maria Koukoula Grapevine Greek Wine Island of Crete

Hera tried to have Dionysus killed so Zeus arranged for him to be protected by nymphs in the mountains.  While in the mountains Dionysus created the wine making process and became the god of wine.  Dionysus later taught Icarius, the new king of Athens, how to make wine.  We can all thank Dionysus for our wine.

Back to the present day, there is a lot of wine flowing in Greece.  Many of the Greek wines you’ll encounter while traveling through the country are simple table wines made from a single grape from a single vineyard and are probably made by the family.  These are good, but the even better, more complex wines come from Greece’s wineries.

Idaia Winery Greek Wine Island of Crete

During our trip to Greece, we discovered the best wines on the island of Crete.  The restaurants have surprisingly thick wine lists full of wines from vineyards on the island.  Our first Cretan wine experience was at Chrisostomos, our favorite restaurant in Chania.  We shared a bottle of red wine from Idaia Winery, a winery in central Crete.  This wine was made with 60% Kotsifali grapes and 40% Mandilaria grapes.  Have you ever heard of those before?  I haven’t.  They are both wine grapes indigenous to Crete.  The wine was fantastic, dry with rich flavors of coffee, chocolate, prune, and vanilla.

After having our first taste of Cretan wine, we wanted to taste more and learn more.  With the help of Wines of Crete we were introduced to Anoskeli, creators of two Greek delicacies, wine and olive oil.

Anoskeli Tasting Room Greek Wine Island of Crete

The Greeks have a tendency of giving things very practical names, so Anoskeli Agricultural Company S.A. is named after the village in which it is located, Anoskeli.  Anoskeli is a small village in the town of Kissamos, which is in western Crete, a 30-minute drive from Chania.  Efi Georgiakaki gave us a wonderful tour of both the olive oil and wine-making sides of the business before providing us with samples of the olive oil and wine to taste.

The Anoskeli olive mill and winery is owned by the Mamidakis family, who were born in the village.  They started by making olive oil 20 years ago which is sold under the Anoskeli brand.  In the United States, their olive oil is sold under the Blue Olive Oil label.

Anoskeli's Greek Wines Island of Crete

Four years ago the family decided to try their hand at making wine.  All of Anoskeli’s Cretan wines, sold under the Ano Playa brand, are made with organic grapes.  They currently produce about 20,000 bottles a year.  The vineyards are in and around the village of Anoskeli, at an altitude of around 250 meters, and grow six varieties of grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Grenache Rouge, Assyrtiko, Vidiano, and Vilana.  The red grapes are familiar names, but the three white grapes were yet more Greek varietals of which we had never heard before.  

After showing us the olive oil making process in a warehouse on the property, Efi led us into the tasting room and down tile and marble stairs which led to the wine fermentation room below.  Here she told us about Anoskeli’s wine making process before leading us back up to the tasting room where we were able to sip the wine while also enjoying fresh tomatoes, local cheese, olives, bread, and Anoskeli’s olive oil.

Anoskeli Olive Oil and Snacks Greek Wine Island of Crete

Anoskeli’s white dry wine is a blend of 60% Vilana, 30% Vidiano, and 10% Assyrtiko.  The grapes are immediately crushed after harvesting and then pressed.  The must and yeast are put into stainless steel tanks for four to eight days to ferment and then the wine is cooled to stop fermentation.  The white blend is fresh, dry, acidic, and has an almost lemony taste.  It would pair well with salad, seafood, and pasta.

Anoskeli’s rosé is processed in the same way as the white, but is made using equal parts Syrah and Grenache Rouge.  The skins are left in anywhere from two to eight hours until the right color is achieved.  The rosé is also dry, fresh, and acidic.  It is tart and tangy, light, and slightly floral.  Anoskeli’s rosé can pretty much pair with anything.

Anoskeli Sweet Syrah and Raki Greek Wine Island of Crete

Anoskeli’s red dry wine is a blend of 80% Syrah, 10% Grenache Rouge, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The red wine ferments for 20 days and has to be pressed every other day.  It is filtered and then spends 10 months in French oak barrels before being bottled.  This Greek red wine is almost purple in color and tastes of red fruit and spices.  It would pair well with grilled meat, of which there is an abundance in Greece.

Anoskeli’s newest wine is called Anoferia and is made with 100% Syrah grapes.  The color is medium ruby red and the wine has a light taste with few tannins and an almost green herbal flavor. 

We finally tasted Anoskeli’s after-dinner wines.  First was a sweet Syrah that had just been bottled a week before.  Then we had Anoskeli’s tsikoudia, or raki.  Crete is famous for its raki.  Raki is served at the end of the evening meal.  Raki is strong and can range from tasting like paint thinner to being superbly smooth.  Anoskeli’s raki, Ano Kato Tsikoudia, is almost sweet and very, very smooth.  It was an exceptional example of raki.

Anoskeli Olive Grove Greek Wine Island of Crete

We sat in Anoskeli’s beautiful tasting room decorated with olive trees and grapevines created by Efi’s friend Maria Koukoula who makes art out of twirled wire.  A cool breeze flowed in through the windows even though it was over 80 degrees outside.  We sipped on wine, dipped bread in olive oil, and looked out over hills of olive trees and vineyards where the olives and grapes that made our olive oil and wine had been growing not that long ago.  We realized this was the best way to learn about the wines of Greece, which are not that well known outside of the country but should be.

Thank you to Anoskeli for providing us with a tour and tasting and Porto Veneziano Hotel and AutoClub Car Rental for hosting our time in Crete and making this post possible.  As always, all opinions are my own.

Discovering Greek wine on the island of Crete.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

10 Reasons to Enjoy a Drink in the Breathtaking Bernese Oberland

The Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland is – in my opinion – the place you need to “see before you die” in the Alps. There is no other spot in Europe that I have traveled to more. I love it so much that – if not for a work permit dispute – I was prepared to move my family there a couple years ago. From quaint villages, to stunning blue lakes and impressive glacial peaks, the Bernese Oberland has it all. This region may not receive the same attention as other regions – Lake Luzerne, Zermatt, Geneva, etc – but with its natural beauty and fun drinking options, you’d be a fool not to hit this mountain paradise.
“Fun drinking options you say?”
If you find beer and awe inspiring views fun, than yes
Of course! Here’s a quick dive into some uniquely Oberland drinking options to go along with all of that beauty.
Adventure sports require a drink after completion
From Lauterbrunnen, to Wengen and down to Interlaken, the Bernese Oberland offers heart racing outdoor adventures. Ever wanted to zorb down a mountain, paraglide off of a cliff or ski the true backcountry? If yes was your answer to any of these then this region is for you. And everyone knows that the best way to wind down your adrenaline is with a good drink. Some outdoor companies in the Bernese Oberland even include the booze in your package for when your feet touch the ground.
We’ve all wanted to drink a martini like 007
Grab a martini and enjoy the above the clouds view at Piz Gloria
Piz Gloria – at the summit of the Schilthorn in the Bernese Oberland – is an awe inspiring 360 degree rotating restaurant with views of 4 countries at nearly 10,000 feet. It is also the one of the set locations of “On Her majesty’s Secret Service”, a James Bond film from 1969. Of course there is a martini on the menu.
The “Beer of the Alps” is from here
Enjoy a Rungenbrau, your local beer in the Alps
Interlaken is home to Rugenbrau, the “beer of the alps”. Since 1865 Rugenbrau has been satisfying locals and travelers alike with their crisp lagers. You’ll be happy to have a beer that those many travelers before you have enjoyed.
Craft beer has also exploded
Following in the footsteps with much of the western world, craft beer has begun thriving in the Bernese Oberland. You’ll be able to find at least 5 different artisans of hand crafted ales and lagers at the base of the Alps. If craft beer is your thing – raises head, hey I’m talking about me – then you’ll be able to grab some suds with very like minded people. Brewery tours on the doorstep of snow peaks and glacial lakes are like a dream come true.
An Alpine boat cruise at sunset with champagne? Yes please
Yup, you should probably hop on a boat. photo courtesy Freddy Enguix
There aren’t many lakes as beautiful as Lake Brienz or Lake Thun. Both set at the base of the Alps in the Bernese Oberland, these 2 lakes are a spectacular blue foreground to the rising mountains behind them. Catch a boat in Brienz for Lake Brienz or Interlaken for Lake Thun and soak up the sunset and some food and drinks. Let someone else do the driving while you sip – yes sip not sit – back and relax to the calm sounds of glacial water wake.
Relive your youth at the Funny Farm
Some hostels are different than others. Interlaken has one of those hostels. The Funny Farm is one of the great hostels of Europe. It is a meeting place of backpackers from around the world, and it is a great place have a drink or 10. No matter your age, if you want to hear about different routes to travel or things to do, you must at least have a drink at the Funny Farm. If you’re adventurous than I suggest a stay there as well.
Cheese and beer go together like….
Keep eating and making that great Alp cheese my cow friends
Well, like cheese and beer. You’ve seen the beer above, but the cheese – I dream about Alp cheese – is some of the best in the world. Alpkase – Alp cheese – is smothered on many dishes or just heated up for out of this world fondue. Cheese in the Bernese Oberland is served for the hearty soul that resides in you. Rich mountains of cheese to be washed down with cold lagers and ales, straight from the cows on the mountainsides of the Bernese Oberland.
Any table you pull up to has a “view”
Seriously, just grab a table, relax and enjoy the views.
Unless you are having a drink in a basement – which now that I think about it, I have before – there isn’t a table with a bad view in the Bernese Oberland. From views above the clouds, in the valleys or at the base of the Alps, any establishment you grab a drink in will have a spectacular alpine view. Drinks taste better when you are in a state of relaxed awe.
High end to budget drinks available for all
You can be as posh or as backpacker as you want in the Bernese Oberland
The Bernese Oberland caters to every group. From hotels, to restaurants and even places to grab a drink, the Oberland has options for every income bracket. You will see throughout the region fantastic 5 star hotels and friendly budget hostels. You’ll be able to eat with 5 forks at 1 meal, or settle in with a paper towel. And if drinks are your game - I’m assuming they are since you’re reading Passports and Cocktails - then don’t fret because you can settle in with a rowdy pint or have a nice brandy and cigar all in the same area. No matter your income bracket you’ll have a familiar place to party, I mean enjoy a drink.
Celebrate the “cows coming home”
Cows, sheep...basically whatever you can get a bell on. The Swiss people - and such those in the Bernese Oberland - are proud of their cows and such celebrate in the fall when those animals come down from the mountains after grazing season. Find a small town in the Oberland in the fall and listen for the bells, the cows will be close behind and a night of schnapps drinking will be ahead of you.
Beyond having an unlimited amount of things to do and places to drink, the Bernese Oberland is very easy to get to. Efficient rail will bring you to this quintessential Alpine area, with a number of transport options available to get you around the region itself once you’ve arrived.  And once you’ve arrived, the people of the Oberland will welcome you with open arms. I’ve never been given more free chocolate – anywhere on earth – than I have been given in the Bernese Oberland. And who doesn’t love Swiss chocolate?
Enjoy yourself at the top of Europe
So grab your cowbell, work on your alp horn skills and get ready for a breathtaking – and thirst quenching – trip to the Swiss Alps, Oberland style.  

(PS…I’m still available for Swiss hire so let those job offers flow)

Thursday, July 9, 2015

15 Drinks to Try in New Orleans

New Orleans is the town of the cocktail.  Cocktails are so important in New Orleans, in fact, there is even an official drink of New Orleans, the Sazerac.  There are two ways to drink in New Orleans.  The first is to haunt Bourbon Street, drinking sugar-filled Hurricane’s and Huge Ass Beers all night.  The second way, the Passports & Cocktails way, is to take the opportunity to try all of the popular and classic New Orleans drinks around the city.  Here is a primer to 15 drinks to try in New Orleans.


Sazerac at The Bombay Club Drinks to Try in New Orleans
Sazerac at The Bombay Club
The Sazerac was declared the official cocktail of New Orleans by the Louisiana Legislature in 2008.   The Sazerac, sometimes called America’s first cocktail, is a drink invented in New Orleans in the 1800s.  The original Sazerac recipe included Sazerac de Forge et Fils (a cognac), absinthe, sugar, Peychaud’s bitters, and a lemon rind.  The Sazerac changed when absinthe was banned and taxes on cognac rose.  Rye whiskey and Herbsaint were used instead.  Herbsaint is the New Orleans version of absinthe and doesn’t contain wormwood.  Sazeracs are on almost every New Orleans cocktail menu.  Of course a popular place to get a Sazerac is The Sazerac Bar at The Roosevelt, one of the best New Orleans hotel bars.  Another great place for the perfect Sazerac is Arnaud’s original bar Richeleux.  Richeleux makes their Sazerac with rye whiskey, Herbsaint, which is pretty much used to provide a rinse of the glass, Paychaud bitters, sugar, and a twist of lemon served up in a chilled tumbler.  If you haven’t had a Sazerac before, be aware that the drink is a short pour, so it might feel like you’re getting ripped off, but that is how the drink is traditionally served and it is strong.

Peychaud’s Bitters

Peychaud's Bitters at New Orleans Pharmacy Museum Drinks to Try in New Orleans
Peychaud's Bitters at New Orleans Pharmacy Museum
A New Orleans cocktail article couldn’t exist without Peychaud’s Bitters.  Peychaud’s Bitters isn’t a New Orleans cocktail, but many of New Orleans’ drinks are made with Peychaud’s Bitters.  We have a pharmacist to thank for New Orleans’ great cocktail history.  Antoine Peychaud operated an apothecary on Royal Street in the mid-1800s.  He would serve his male guests a mixture of brandy and his bitters, Peychaud’s Bitters, as a pre-dinner drink to aid in digestion.  The drinks were served in egg cups called coquetier in French.  While some say this is the origin of the word cocktail, the first instance of the word cocktail when referring to an alcoholic beverage occurred when Peychaud was 11.  But even if the word cocktail did not come from him, the basis of many New Orleans cocktails did.


Hurricane at Broussard's Drinks to Try in New Orleans
Hurricane at Broussard's
Possibly the best-known cocktail of New Orleans is the Hurricane.  Pat O’Brien’s is the original home of the Hurricane.  If you want a Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane, the trick is to use the St. Peter Street entrance, buy it from the locals’ bar, then cross the street with your go-cup to the piano bar, where Hurricanes are more expensive.  However, be aware that the Hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s is no longer made with the original recipe and is mostly sugar now, sure to cause an immense headache.  If you want to know what the original Hurricane tasted like, head over to Broussard’s.  Broussard’s bartender Paul Gustings is a local celebrity in New Orleans.  He’s been bartending for over 35 years and is the one all other bartenders in New Orleans go to see for a cocktail.  Paul makes his Hurricane as similar to the original recipe as possible with passion fruit juice, white rum, dark rum, lemon juice, Peychaud’s bitters, honey syrup, and apricot brandy.

Vieux Carre

Vieux Carre at The Carousel Bar Drinks to Try in New Orleans
Vieux Carre (left) at The Carousel Bar
The Vieux Carre is the signature cocktail of The Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone, first mixed by Walter Berferon in 1938.  It was also a favorite drink of Tennessee Williams.  Their Vieux Carre is made with Bulleit Rye whiskey, Hennessey, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, Angostura bitters, and Peychaud’s Bitters.

Bourbon Milk Punch

Bourbon Milk Punch at The Columns Hotel Drinks to Try in New Orleans
Bourbon Milk Punch at The Columns Hotel
A popular New Orleans drink is the Bourbon Milk Punch.  The recipe for the Bourbon Milk Punch was first published in Jerry Thomas’ 1962 Bartenders Guide.  The ingredients are Maker’s Mark bourbon or Delacour brandy, half and half, and simple syrup.  It’s like an alcoholic milkshake.  Excellent Bourbon Milk Punches are served at The Carousel Bar and The Victorian Lounge at The Columns Hotel.  

Ramos Gin Fizz

Ramos Gin Fizz at The Sazerac Bar Drinks to Try in New Orleans
Ramos Gin Fizz at The Sazerac Bar
A very traditional New Orleans cocktail is the Ramos Gin Fizz.  When you order a Ramos Gin Fizz, you are not only getting a drink, you’re getting a show.  The Ramos Gin Fizz was invented in New Orleans by Henry C. Ramos.  The cocktail contains gin, simple syrup, lemon juice, lime juice, egg whites, heavy cream, and orange flower water.  That combination is shaken until fizzy and then poured into a chilled glass.  After it settles, the drink is topped with soda water.  In the old days, shaker boys were hired specifically to shake gin fizzes and a properly shaken gin fizz was shaken for eight to 10 minutes.  The Sazerac Bar is said to make the best Ramos Gin Fizz, but The Carousel Bar is another fine place to order this fancy beverage.

Café Brulot Diabolique

Café Brulot Diabolique at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum Drinks to Try in New Orleans
Café Brulot Diabolique at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum
This flaming coffee drink was invented by Jules Alciatore, the son of the founder of Antoine’s Restaurant.  Flaming drinks were popular in France at the time and Jules decided to bring the trend to New Orleans.  The drink was especially popular during Prohibition when many were concealing their alcohol in coffee.  The ingredients of Café Brulot Diabolique include sugar cubes, orange peel, lemon peel, cinnamon stick, whole cloves, brandy or bourbon, and hot dark roast chicory coffee.  The ingredients are combined in a bowl, set aflame, and then poured over the sugar cubes in demitasse cups.

Bayou Bash

Bayou Bash at The Court of Two Sisters Drinks to Try in New Orleans
Bayou Bash at The Court of Two Sisters
A signature drink of The Court of Two Sisters is the Bayou Bash.  The Bayou Bush is made with Southern Comfort (which was created in New Orleans), orange juice, pineapple juice, cherry juice, sweet and sour mix, red wine, and Grenadine.  The ingredients are poured in layers, which should be mixed together before drinking and the cocktail tastes kind of like Sangria.

Brandy Crusta

The Brandy Crusta is another cocktail invented in New Orleans, though it didn’t appear on many of the New Orleans cocktail menus we saw.  A Brandy Crusta contains cognac, lemon juice, maraschino liqueur, orange liqueur, simple syrup, and Peychaud’s Bitters.  The drink is served in a sugar-rimmed glass garnished with a lemon peel.


Grasshopper at Bourbon "O" Drinks to Try in New Orleans
Grasshopper at Bourbon "O"
I had never thought of this bright green drink as being a New Orleans cocktail, but the Grasshopper is yet another cocktail that is said to have originated in New Orleans.  A Grasshopper is made with crème de menthe, crème de cacao, and fresh cream.  It tastes kind of like the inside of a YORK Peppermint Pattie.  I had my first Grasshopper at Bourbon “O” which is the only craft cocktail bar on Bourbon Street.

The Three Martini Lunch

Three Martini Lunch at Antoine's Drinks to Try in New Orleans
Three Martini Lunch at Antoine's
The three martini lunch is not a cocktail, but rather a way of life.  The three martini lunch is a term coming from the times of Mad Men when the American executive was able to have a leisurely lunch where he had time to consume more than one martini during the work day.  New Orleans is bringing back the three martini lunch, with some restaurants offering lunches which can be accompanied with up to three martinis at the price of 25 cents each.  We enjoyed our three martini lunch at Antoine’s (alongside their famous oysters, one of the traditional foods to try in New Orleans).  The martini of the day was the John Daly, an Arnold Palmer (lemonade and iced tea) with vodka.

Pimm’s Cup

Pimm’s was created in the city of London at an oyster bar owned by James Pimm in the early 1800s.  There are a number of Pimm’s products, the most popular being Pimm’s No. 1, a gin-based liqueur.  While not a New Orleans original, Pimm's Cups show up on cocktail menus around the city.  The Carousel Bar serves a drink called Pimm’s Cup. No. 1 made with Pimm’s No. 1, strawberry, cucumber, lemon juice, and simple syrup.  Marti’s Restaurant serves a different Pimm’s Cup, Pimm’s Cup 11, with Pimm’s No. 1, cucumber, lemon, and gingerale.

French 75

French 75 at Richeleux Drinks to Try in New Orleans
French 75 at Richeleux
The French 75 is such a popular New Orleans cocktail there’s a bar named after it.  French 75 is one of the bars of Arnaud’s Restaurant.  Arnaud’s was originally opened by Count Arnaud Cazenave.  When he died, the restaurant was passed on to his daughter Germaine Cazenave Wells.  Germaine was an alcoholic and her favorite drink was the French 75.  A French 75 is made with gin, simple syrup, lemon juice, and sparkling wine.  St. Germain elderflower liqueur can also be added.

Big Daddy Cocktail

Big Daddy Cocktail at Commander's Palace Drinks to Try in New Orleans
Big Daddy Cocktail at Commander's Palace
The Big Daddy Cocktail is a modern New Orleans cocktail created by Chef Lu Brow of Swizzle Stick’s Bar at Café Adelaide.  We tried this popular New Orleans cocktail at Commander’s Palace.  The Big Daddy Cocktail is moonshine-based but tastes like apple pie filling with cinnamon sprinkled on top.  The cocktail is made with CatDaddy Moonshine, Grand Marnier, and fresh-squeezed lemon.


Sachmo and Pimm's Cup at Marti's Restaurant Drinks to Try in New Orleans
Sachmo (left) and Pimm's Cup (right) at Marti's Restaurant
New Orleans has a ton of traditional cocktails that have been around for a long time, but the city is also always creating new cocktails every day.  One of New Orleans’ new cocktails is the Sachmo, created by Chris Banks of Marti’s Restaurant.  The Sachmo is a smoky cocktail made with Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Galliano Ristretto, Braulio Amaro, and smoked paprika, all served in a glass with a salt rim.

Thank you to the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau and the New Orleans Hotel Collection for hosting our trip to New Orleans and making this post possible.  As always, all opinions are my own.  For updates on what is going on in New Orleans, follow the New Orleans CVB on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

15 popular drinks to try in New Orleans.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Music and Bikes and Single Speed Brews in Cedar Falls...Oh My!

"Where you invest your love, you invest your life"

Poetic words from the band who helped introduce me to my most recent brewery experience. No Mumford and Sons didn't take me out drinking -how cool would that be though? We actually headed out on the road for a Mumford and Sons festival stop in a place we'd never been with a brewery we'd never tried.

That town was Cedar Falls, Iowa -the festival was in Waverly but we stayed in Cedar Falls. Cedar Falls is another college town for our list -beer and college towns go together well. As well as being a college town, Cedar Falls is in a great area for outdoor recreation and has a fantastic historic downtown for local shopping and dining.

photo courtesy of  J.Stephen Conn
Wait, isn't Cedar Falls in northern Iowa? I thought that Iowa was just corn fields or baseball fields carved out of corn fields?

The serene Cedar River in Iowa photo courtesy of David Sebben
Not even close -though agriculture is important to Iowa and we appreciate Iowa farmers. Cedar Falls is located on the -you guessed it- Cedar River. The Cedar River "basin" stretches north and south from Cedar Falls connecting to other rivers such as the Shell Rock River and Iowa River. All of these end up connecting to the Mississippi River-only a couple hours away from Cedar Falls.

Though this river is not a tumbling mountain white water adventure river, the Cedar offers great kayak and canoe opportunities. If you're an angler, the Cedar River offers great walleye fishing opportunities as well. Beyond activities on the river, the Cedar Falls area has some great parks and recreational areas along the river for camping and hiking.

Shopping, eating, drinking- 2 of my favorite things
Outdoor activity not your thing? That's fine because Cedar Falls offers great local shopping, dining, and lodging in it's historic downtown area. Downtown Cedar Falls is nationally recognized as one of the Great American Main Streets. It oozes turn of the 20th century charm with brick sidewalks and gas style lamp posts. Every store front is occupied by a local artisan, shop, or restaurant.  The Black Hawk Hotel- right on Main Street- is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The area is fantastic, as is the pizza at Tony's La Pizzeria in the district.

One of the other nice things is that downtown is only a few blocks from the the biking/hiking trails along the river. Pick up a rental bike if you don't have one and take a nice ride. No matter if you're riding a ten speed or a mountain bike, you need to pick up a "Single Speed" when you're done.

"Is that some sort of bike humor?"

Welcome to Single Speed Brewing of Cedar Falls
Actually it's beer/bike humor-bad humor but still an attempt- because "Single Speed" in downtown Cedar Falls can refer to a bike or the hometown brewery-Single Speed Brewing. Founded in 2012, Single Speed Brewing serves Northeastern Iowa ales that are not only big and bold, but also local and seasonal. As we've preached endlessly, a local/regional brewer knows when to put the winter ale away and brew the flavors of the season and Single Speed is no different.

Cheers to good beer and good music
We were actually introduced to Single Speed's brews at the Friday night portion of the festival instead of the tap room itself. I knew beforehand they would be serving so I was very excited to get my first taste. At the festival Single Speed was serving their Equatorial-an American Pale Wheat. This was the perfect warm Midwestern summer evening in a field beer. Unlike other wheats -including the other wheat served at the festival- there was a fun complexity to the Equatorial while remaining refreshing. Tropical fruit jumped out from the hops and the malt was on the lighter side but still sweet and noticeable. Equatorial is the reason that local brewers exist. Unlike the other wheat at the festival -a national brewer- Equatorial had character beyond saying "wheat" on a can.

A solid blurry lineup-is that how I saw the lineup?
After the festival ended for the evening it was time to head back to downtown Cedar Falls and hit the Single Speed tap room- which on the weekend is open until a wonderful 2 am. The tap room was a great spot to hang out. Single Speed's room was a welcoming modern spot set in a turn of the century building. It wasn't stuffy- not a whole bunch of beer snobbery going on- and had a good number of tables. They also serve what looks like a great menu of pub fare as well but we were in just after the kitchen closed- that's on us not them.

I wonder what movie will be shown on this flight?
After a long evening of festival attending I wasn't possessing the "in it to win it" attitude anymore, but I definitely was able to hit a flight for a night cap. My choices for the evening were the Hibbity Dibbity saison, Tricycle cream ale, Backpedal bock and Amber Dextrous India red ale. I was looking for a decent spectrum of choices and I found each to be very unique compared to the same styles at other breweries.

My favorite-not including the fantastic Equatorial at the festival- was the Backpedal bock. Since a bock is not a style you get to see everywhere, Also I loved the fact that this a collaboration beer with another Iowa brewery-Backpocket Brewing. The Backpedal is not your traditional bock- it doesn't buck German tradition. What the Backpedal does is take the traditional German bock and hop it up a little with citra hops. The beer had the deep malty flavor you expect in a bock with a hop bite you don't get in most lagers.

The rest of the Single Speed lineup is just as creative. The Tricycle cream ale is a 3 in 1 style that exudes cream ale with a little more hop finish. The Amber Dextrous is not what you think when you hear amber ale. Again the hops come through and create almost a cross bread amber/IPA. It's not as bitter as a west coast IPA or as light as an American amber ale. I love a good saison and the Hibbity Dibbity is a solid peppery take on the Belgian style and is still being modified as well.

Don't worry, we hit more Equatorial the next night as well
What I'm saying is that Single Speed Brewing-like the Cedar Falls area- has a ton of unique character. Folks like to call the Midwest fly-over country and that's fine for them. What we who live here know is that places like Cedar Falls and Single Speed Brewing -less than a 5 hour drive from Minneapolis, Chicago, Madison, Omaha, Des Moines, St. Louis, Kansas City, etc- exist throughout the humble Midwest. Grab your keys -and your bikes for Ragbrai- and head to Cedar Falls for the weekend. And once your day activities are done, hop on a Single Speed- or 2- for some unique flavors and Heartland charm.