Fabulous Faux-tinis Add Flavor to National Martini Day

by Rebecca Rhoades
( June 19th, 2014 )

Today is National Martini Day. A day to celebrate that all-American concoction of gin and vermouth. But what if you don’t like gin or vermouth…or olives, for that matter? Well, there are a number of variants on the classic martini that are created with other spirits as well as flavored liquors and fruity ingredients. You know…the appletini or choco-tini, for example. These drinks are named after the cocktail glass in which they’re served and have little else to do with the classic martini. But as much as purists want to deny them, these drinks are extremely popular. Plus, they add a little extra variety and color to any martini party.

So, in honor of drink that author E.B. White called “the elixir of quietude” — I bet you didn’t know that E.B. himself had his own preferred twist on the martini, consisting of lime juice, apricot brandy, honey, dry vermouth, and gin — I present four fabulous “Faux-tinis”.


Created by Pablo Villareal at Jazz at Kitano.

4 cherry tomatoes
1 dried red chile pepper
8-10 cilantro leaves
Pinch of salt
2 oz. Grey Goose vodka
½ oz. lime juice
½ oz. lemon juice
½ oz. simple syrup

In a cocktail shaker, muddle together cherry tomatoes, dried chile pepper, cilantro leaves and salt. Add Grey Goose, lime juice, lemon juice and simple syrup and ice. Shake. Garnish with a cilantro leaf





Recipe and photo courtesy of Ungava Canadian Premium Gin.

2 oz. Ungava gin
½ oz. lemon juice
½ oz. maraschino liqueur
¼ oz. crème de violette
Edible orchid for garnish

Combine all ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with the edible orchid.




Recipe and photo courtesy of BRIO Tuscan Grille.

2 oz. Sobieski (or favorite non-flavored) vodka
½ oz. peach schnapps
½ oz. peach daiquiri/peach puree
½ oz. Sierra Mist
2 fresh strawberry slices

Combine vodka, peach schnapps, and peach daiquiri in shaker with ice. Shake well. Strain into a martini glass. Float Sierra Mist on top. Garnish with strawberry slices.




Recipe created by Kim Haasarud, Liquid Architecture for Sobieski. Photo courtesy of Sobieski.

2 oz. Sobieski Raspberry vodka
¾ oz. lime juice
¾ oz. simple syrup
½ oz. pomegranate juice
Raspberry and mint sprig for garnish

Combine vodka, lime juice, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Top with pomegranate juice. Garnish with raspberry and mint sprig.





Veni, Vidi, Bibi!


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Celebrate National Martini Day

by Rebecca Rhoades
( June 18th, 2014 )

Martini splash

“Shaken, not stirred.”

We all know this famous line from many James Bond movies. It’s how our spy hero preferred his martinis. And this Thursday, June 19, bartenders across the country will probably be hearing that phrase over and over and over again, much to their chagrin, as we celebrate National Martini Day.

But what exactly is a martini? And was 007 risking incurring the wrath of his favorite barkeep by asking for it stirred?

Bartender pouring martini

For some guidance, I turned to one of Philadelphia’s top bartenders, Katie Loeb,  cocktail creator extraordinaire and author of Shake, Stir, Pour: Fresh Homegrown Cocktails. Traditionally, a martini is made with gin and vermouth, and garnished with an olive or a lemon twist. Loeb agrees.

“A martini is Old School. It’s gin, not vodka, and it absolutely has vermouth in it,” she says. “It can also contain a drop or two of orange bitters.” And for a garnish? Loeb recommends “really good housemade cocktail onions; olives; or a twist of lemon, orange, or grapefruit as the drinker likes.”

As for James Bond, well, lets just say he’s probably not a bartender’s best friend (although shaking is so commonplace that it’s considered normal by many). Shaking a martini leaves the drink cloudy; stirring retains the texture of the ingredients, and the drink remains clear. The late British playwright and novelist W. Somerset Maugham is known for saying that “a martini should always be stirred, not shaken, so that the molecules lie sensuously one on top of the other.” For Loeb, a martini “needs to be stirred until it’s the texture of motor oil.”

Four martinis

FUN FACT: I’ll bet you didn’t even know that a shaken martini isn’t even a martini at all. It’s a Bradford.

While recipes vary according ratio of gin to vermouth, ranging anywhere from 3:1 to 12:1 or more, the most common is 2 oz. gin to 1 oz. vermouth. In his 2008 book Everyday Drinking, the late great British writer Kingsley Amis wrote, “Rockefeller and his chums probably drank equal parts of gin and vermouth. Since then, people have come to prefer their Martinis drier and drier, i.e. with less and less vermouth. Sixteen parts gin to one vermouth is nowadays considered quite normal. Anyway, that’s about how I like it. Finding out by experiment the precise balance you favour is no great ordeal. Don’t hurry it.”

Another tip for making the best martini: Pre-chill the glass prior to cocktail hour. I recommend leaving a glass in the freezer for a couple hours before use. This helps the drink remain cold (another reason why some people prefer shaking to stirring; shaking increases convection, making the drink colder than if it were stirred).

So however, you like it—dry, dirty (with olive juice or olive brine), or perfect—this Thursday, make sure to tip your glass to the drink writer H.L. Mencken called “the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet.”

Martinis and olives

And coming on Thursday: In recent years, there has been a big trend towards incorporating other spirits, such as vodka or even flavored liquors in so-called martinis. These “-tini” drinks are named after the cocktail glass in which they’re served, and while they may not be “martinis” in the truest sense of the recipe, there’s no denying that they’re extremely popular. So if you’re not a fan of gin, vermouth, or olives, check back for a selection of some fun, colorful, and downright delicious “Faux-tinis.”


Veni, Vidi, Bibi!


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Block 16 is Changing the Las Vegas Food and Beverage Game

by Rebecca Rhoades
( June 3rd, 2014 )

When it comes to dining, Las Vegas has a long and varied history. But from its days of $5.99 all-you-can-eat buffets to its more recent love affair with celebrity chefs and just about every chain restaurant you can think of, the city has never really been known for culinary creativity—at least when it comes to feeding the hordes of tourists who flock to the Strip every year to try their luck in the many over-the-top casinos.

Until recently.

High Roller observation wheel

At the forefront of this new food outlook is restaurateur Billy Richardson of Block 16 Hospitality. Las Vegas native Richardson—if his name sounds familiar, perhaps it’s because his father Bill built some of the biggest resorts on the strip, including the Mandalay Bay Resort, The Hotel at Mandalay Bay, and The Monte Carlo, to name a few—got his start in the hospitality industry with the opening of RA, the city’s most popular nightclub in the late ’90s at the Luxor. Now he’s turned his attention to creating a veritable restaurant empire built entirely on unique, only-in-Vegas joints, including Holstein’s at the Cosmopolitan, The Barrymore at the Royal Resort, Public House at The Venetian, The Blind Pig at the Panorama Towers and Haute Doggery and Flour & Barley at The Linq.

I recently had a chance to visit these establishments and sample many of the dishes as well as down a variety of beverages, from healthy homemade juice blends to creative cocktails to pairings that would please even the most hipsterish of craft beer enthusiasts.

Green Monster health drink at The Blind Pig

No breakfast at The Blind Pig is complete with the Green Monster (above). This healthy morning pick-me-up is made of kale, spinach, cucumber, celery, apple and parsley. It’s shockingly green but surprisingly tasty, with a tangy apple sweetness. It would go great with WanderFood’s perfect French Toast.

Haute Doggery gourmet hot dogs

For lunch, head over to The Linq, where in addition to riding the High Roller, the world’s largest observation wheel, you can enjoy some wild wieners at Haute Doggery. From the Naked Kobe to the Detroit Coney Classic to the Tijuana Dog, Haute Doggery offers 11 “retro dogs,” as well as 10 “haute dogs.” Shown above are El Machete (char grilled frank, roasted green chilies, borracho onions, pepper jack cheese, tomato and Spicy Machete sauce) and the Billionaire Dog (grilled Kobe beef frank, Foie Gras torchon, port onion marmalade and truffle mayo).

The Godfather at Flour & Barley

While you won’t find any alcoholic beverages at Haute Doggery, you will at nearby Flour & Barley, Block 16’s sports-and-Americana-themed Italian eatery, where the seats are made from recycled baseball gloves, metal bleachers decorate the ceiling, and a giant American flag crafted from baseball bats and balls highlights a back wall. Stop in for a round of the house cocktail, The Godfather. This sinus-clearing tipple features St. George Breaking & Entering bourbon that’s been barrel-aged for 30 days in 12-liter barrels that were soaked in Amaretto for seven days. Delicious! Eleven other signature cocktails grace the menu, including such fun-named concoctions as Blue Ball Suprema (citrus vodka, cointreau, lemon juice, topped with blueberry Red Bull), Chunky Watermelon (Davalos tequila, cointreau, lime juice, agave nectar, and fresh watermelon), and Summer Prelude (Sapphire East, Luxardo cherry molacca, Yuzu citrus, simple syrup, egg white, and a dash of Peychaud bitters).

steak and beer at Public House

Perhaps beer is more your thing. If so, then Public House is the place for you.  This gastropub—the first in Las Vegas—features an ever-changing selection of 24 beers on tap and a bottle list more than 300 long. Best of all, cicerones (think sommeliers of beer) are on-staff to help you choose the best pairing for your meal. For my three-course luncheon, I started with the grilled octopus salad paired with Firestone Walker’s Pale 31 ale. The hoppiness of beer paired well with the acidic lemon vinaigrette, while the malty flavor was balanced by the chick peas and cherry tomatoes. Next up was hanger steak and polenta-and-goat-cheese fries, paired with Lagunitas 2010 Olde GnarlyWine. Aged for two years in bourbon, brandy, and rye barrels, the 10.6% ABV drink is surprisingly mellow yet stands up well to the protein-rich meal. Finally, for dessert, I had an olive oil cake topped with a Greek yogurt semifreddo, strawberry ice cream, blueberry fricasse, and an almond cookie. It was paired with what is probably the most unusual beer I’ve ever tasted. Made by Italian brewery Birrificio del Ducato, My Blueberry Nightmare is a stout brewed with hot chili and aged for two years in whisky barrels with blueberries and pediococcus, a bacteria that gives it an acidic, almost sour taste. Right off the nose, it smells like balsamic vinegar with a little bit of vanilla sweetness. At the back end, you get nuances of the stout, including dark chocolate and roasted coffee. Amazing, completely out of left field, and very intense.

My Blueberry Nightmare beer at Public HouseFinally, for dinner, I’d suggest either Holstein’s or The Barrymore.

Cocktails at HolsteinsHolstein’s is more hip and casual, offering a selection of “bad-ass burgers” in both slider and normal size, as well as an array of awesome finger foods, including fried pickles, Cuban street tacos, Philly cheesesteak egg rolls, and my favorite, the shrimp & grits hush puppies. But what you really want to try here are the cocktails. From the Berry Fresh (St. Germain, fresh lemon juice, Skyy citrus, Stoli Strasberi, simple syrup, and muddled strawberries), to the Pumpkin Revery (Smirnoff Whipped vodka, pumpkin puree, pumpkin-cream liquor and half & half, served with a graham cracker rim), to the Ginger Julie (muddled mint and lemon, ginger beer, Pendelton Canadian whiskey), there’s something to tempt everyone’s taste buds. Or you could always enjoy one of the more than 100 beers available. Even dessert kicks it up a notch, with “Bam-Boozled Shakes” for the kid in each of us. Below are the Red Velvet Cake Shake with Zing Red Velvet vodka, red velvet cake, cream cheese mouse, and a mini red velvet whoopie pie; and the Drunken Monkey, with Reese’s, banana, malt, and Frangelico. What you don’t see is the Vegan Coconut Rasberry Shake, with coconut sorbet, raspberries, Skyy Raspberry vodka, 3 Olives Coconut vodka, and toasted coconut marshmallows, because it was just so good that it disappeared quickly.

Adult milkshakes at Holsteins

Finally, The Barrymore, which is located a block off the Strip, is a throwback to old-school Hollywood glamour, complete with oversized velvet booths, dark metallic wallpaper, chandeliers, and shiny metal film reels on the ceiling. The cocktails are also old-school. Appease your inner Don Draper or Peggy Olson with one of a dozen different martinis, the eponymous The Barrymore (Gentleman Jack, Solerno blood orange liqueur, orange bitters, Cocchi vermouth di Torino, orange marmalade, and orange zest), a classic Moscow Mule, or (seen below) The Royal (New Amsterdam vodka, fresh strawberries, simple syrup, Prosecco, and a lemon twist), or Blue Something (Skyy Ginger vodka, lime juice, simple syrup, mint, and blueberries).

Cocktails at The Barrymore

So the next time you travel to Sin City and you want something really good that you can’t find at your local mall, forget about going to Guy Fieri’s latest Vegas venture and check out what you can find when you step away from the slot machines and gamble on flavor. And don’t forget to tell them that Wanderlush Diary sent you.


Veni, Vidi, Bibi!



All photos by Rebecca L. Rhoades

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