THE QUAFF: End of the World Cocktail Hour

This may come as a shock to you all, but the weather here in Los Angeles is often wonderful. Such was the case this past Saturday, which aside from being absolutely beautiful was also supposed to mark the End of the Days. Well, Doomsday be damned, I was going to celebrate the weather with a cocktail. I called up my reliable drinking buddy Sly and invited her over to enjoy a quick afternoon drink chez moi, and of course, she took the bait hook, line, and sinker. Little did either of us realize that we would soon be embarking on an evening of extreme (but not sloppy) drunkenness.

Photos of our drinking — beginning with the Rapture-appropriate “Suffering Bastard” cocktail — after the jump…

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Trying Out Ramona Pinot Grigio

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When Ramona Singer of The Real Housewives of New York City announced that she’d launched her own brand of Pinot Grigio, I knew I had to try it. The wine, aptly named Ramona Pinot Grigio (as opposed to something silly like ‘TRUE Pinot Grigio’) isn’t available in stores on the West Coast, but as luck would have it, I just spent the weekend in New York City, and there was no way I was going to leave the island of Manhattan without getting my hands on a bottle of RPG. Sure enough, after some phone calls, I tracked down a bottle on 68th street and Lex. Not longer after, the skies opened up, and as the rain came down, my friends and I declared it the perfect opportunity to cozy up inside and enjoy the Ramona Pinot Grigio experience.

Pics and impressions after the jump… Continue reading

THE QUAFF: 11 Amazing Cocktails From Library Bar

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In case you’ve been living under a rock (or Orlando), hand-crafted cocktails are all the rage these days. It’s all about mixology, and Los Angeles (as well as San Francisco) seems to be at the forefront of the whole movement. Whether it be a speakeasy (Roger Room), a hideaway (La Descarga), a restaurant (Hungry Cat), a hotel (The Standard), or a club (Supperclub) — anyplace that can serve booze seems to be churning out inventive drinks that go far beyond the typical Rum & Coke or Sex On The Beach. In fact, there are so many options that what used to seem intriguing (ie. a basil gimlet) now feels pedestrian (but still delicious). Nothing, however, has been as wildly creative as the offerings at Library Bar, housed in Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel (not to be confused with the bar of the same name in downtown Los Angeles).

I had first gone to Library Bar about two years ago after having read about it online. I only tried one drink, loved it intensely, and then for some reason never returned, despite living down the street. There’s no accounting for my strange behavior. Anyway, on Tuesday my dear friend Sly requested that we MUST grab a cocktail, and since I had just been bailed on for dinner plans, I decided I would most certainly love a beverage to ease the sting of rejection. Just one drink…

Spoiler alert: there were many drinks.

Crafted by master mixologist Matthew Biancaniello, these cocktails were insane. I mean, amazing. Pics of our libation odyssey after the jump… Continue reading

THE QUAFF: Roasted Red Pepper Juleps

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How dreadful that it’s been practically three weeks since I last updated anything in The Quaff category. Well, I’ve been behind on all my posting in general, but I’m determined to catch up, beginning with a new addition to this category. I’m happy to report I have a fun item that I whipped up with my friends Sly and Aletheia, who were both present at the very first “Fresh Cocktail Hour” two years ago, which centered on homemade Bloody Marys. Since then, anytime my friends and I convene to crank out some libations from scratch, we call it “Fresh Cocktail Hour,” and so as you can imagine, having the original F.C.H. trio back in action was quite the momentous occasion (Aletheia unfortunately lives in another city).

Anyway, in an effort to out-do ourselves once again, we turned again towards my favorite cocktail book, Organic, Shaken, and Stirred (which about six of my friends have now purchased — you’re welcome, Paul Abercrombie). We wanted a cocktail that seemed new and different, and so we decided on the Roasted Red Pepper Julep. Our journey after the jump… Continue reading

THE QUAFF: The Mysterious Stranger

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Some things look beautiful but taste average. Some things look nasty but taste really good. And some things look bad and taste worse.

When my friend IndianJones and I endeavored to make The Mysterious Stranger cocktail from Paul Abercrombie’s Organic, Shaken & Stirred cocktail book, we had some serious fears that the cocktail would fall in that last dreaded category. I mean, this was one nasty looking libation. However, Paul Abercrombie had yet to steer us wrong. Even the worst recipes were still pretty solid. Would the Mysterious Stranger be the first true disappointment from Organ, Shaken & Stirred? Or would this beverage be something of an ugly duckling. Results after the jump… Continue reading

Happy Hour At Nick & Stef’s in Downtown LA

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Recently I enjoyed a media comped Happy Hour experience at esteemed downtown LA steakhouse Nick & Stef’s. I’d never eaten at the trendy establishment, but when I saw a glimpse of the cocktails on display, I was more than intrigued. $5 Moscow Mule? Drop EVERYTHING (although, ironically I didn’t have one).

Anyway, I didn’t get to try any of the steak, but I did sample quite a bit of the Happy Hour menu. Results after the jump… Continue reading

My First Shamrock Shake Experience

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As much as I adore fast food, I have some serious gaps in my experience. For example, I’ve never eaten Taco Bell (that will change next month — an outing is scheduled). Similarly, up until last night, I’d never tried one of McDonald’s famed Shamrock Shakes, but with St. Patty’s day right around the corner and all the scuttlebutt about the green libations on Facebook and Twitter, I could no longer stand on the sidelines of fast food culture. It was time to cross this drink off my quaffing bucket list.

After the jump, check out photos, courtesy of Phamtastic, of my very first Shamrock Shake. Continue reading

Judging the Southwest Regional Barista Competition, or How I Learned To Live With Abdominal Cramping

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Photo via LAist

This past weekend I had the supreme joy of judging the Southwest Regional Barista Championship, which saw baristas from California, Hawaii, Arizona, Colorado descend on Hollywood all with the hopes of advancing on to the U.S. Championships. Some of you may have read my tortured account of getting certification for this event, and I can assure you that a) training was much more difficult than judging, and b) my intestinal tract has finally returned to normal.

This was no easy task. I was in a world of pain Thursday night after having spent all afternoon sipping espressos and cappuccinos. Quite frankly, by the time Friday morning rolled around, I wasn’t sure if I was up for the challenge of enduring more caffeinated beverages. Luckily, being the intrepid blogger that I am, I persevered. A full account of my experience after the jump… Continue reading

B-Side Blog To Judge Southwest Regional Barista Competition

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Wondering where my Survivor, Top Chef, and American Idol recaps have been? Fear not: I haven’t abandoned them. Instead I spent the day down in Long Beach, CA getting certified to be a judge at the Southwest Regional Barista Competition, and let me tell you something: it’s not easy. Aside from it being a terribly exacting process — prospective judges are trained in everything from taste balance to foam persistence and consistency — the certification has taken a full on physical toll. You see, here’s my problem. I don’t really drink coffee. I indulge in some foofy mocha lattes socially, and yes, on occasion I’ll enjoy an iced coffee, but espresso and cappuccino are not really my things. Furthermore, after half a coffee, I’m pretty wired.

Still, when I was invited to participate in this event, I thought it could be a ton of fun. What better way to earn coffee bragging rights than by becoming a CERTIFIED JUDGE?

Well, now I’m paying the price. I’ve spent the past five hours shaking with occasional sprints to the bathroom. This is not for the faint of heart, and I’m starting to think that I’m VERY faint of heart. Continue reading