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Brunch And Bubbly: Sotto 13’s new DIY Prosecco bar puts a spin on Mimosas

22 Feb

Italian small plates and pizza venue Sotto 13, located in a residential section of 13th Street in the West Village, has launched a new prix-fixe weekend brunch with unlimited cocktails. For $25, you get any two tapas and one side or a wood-fired pizza, plus all-you-can-drink Bloody Marys, Mimosas, Raspberry-White Peach Bellinis, Sangrias and Screwdrivers. My favorite brunch cocktail is the Bloody Mary, and Sotto 13’s is perfectly spicy and flavorful.
For an additional  $15, you can spruce up your Mimosas with the DIY Prosecco Bar, a tray that contains mixers like blood orange juice or lychee puree, modifiers such as Aperol and a fig-infused vodka, and an array of garnishes, including pomegranate seeds, candied ginger and skewered blackberries. If you opt for à la carte service, you can get a full bottle of Prosecco and the additional fixings for $55.

The brunch itself comprises Italian-style breakfast foods served in small dishes that are meant for sharing—Sotto 13’s tagline is “Social Italian.” Selections include the Egg Benedict with Pancetta, the French Toast with berry compote and Vermont maple syrup, and the Tuscan Egg, which is poached and served on rosemary focaccia that’s soaked with pomodoro sauce and topped with Parmigiano cheese. I couldn’t get enough of the Cacio e Pepe, comprising soft-scrambled eggs mixed with caciocavallo cheese and black pepper, and the Fennel Sausage & Roasted Peppers. I also loved the Baked Crispelle—crepes containing spinach, ricotta and a creamy tomato sauce.

If pizza is more your style, Sotto 13 offers Margherita, Wild Mushroom, Spicy Fennel Sausage & Caramelized Onion, Spinach & Artichoke and Di Parma, made with mozzarella, arugula and prosciutto di Parma. They also serve pastas, salads and other Italian-style tapas, as well as specialty cocktails that aren’t part of the all-you-can-drink deal like the Tomatillo Bloody Mary, which I highly recommend.

© 2013 Amber Drea and New York Drinkie. Photos courtesy of Sotto 13. Unauthorized use or duplication of images and text without express and written permission is strictly prohibited. Excerpts may be quoted, provided that clear credit is given to Amber Drea and New York Drinkie with links directing to the original content.


Baking With Booze: Maker’s Mark gingerbread cookies with Bourbon cinnamon glaze

9 Dec

These boozy cookies were a huge hit at my holiday party! Here’s the recipe:

Maker’s Mark Gingerbread Cookies With Bourbon Cinnamon Glaze

Makes 40 cookies using 4 1/2-inch-tall Maker’s Mark bottle cookie cutter


3 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 stick of butter (room temperature)
1/2 cup of sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
1 tbs white vinegar
1/4 cup Maker’s Mark Bourbon

Mix flour, baking soda, cloves, cinnamon and ginger in a bowl and set aside. Cream together butter and sugar in a separate bowl. Mix in egg, molasses, vinegar and Bourbon and incorporate well. Add dry ingredients and combine until dough forms. (If dough seems too dry, add 1 egg white.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Divide dough into three pieces, wrap in parchment and refrigerate for at lease one hour. On a floured surface, roll out dough to about 3/8-inch thick and cut with cookie cutter. Gather scraps and repeat until all dough is used.

Place cookies on nonstick or greased cookie sheets. Bake until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Allow to cool.


2 tbs Maker’s Mark Bourbon
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
24-30 drops red food coloring

Combine Bourbon, sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Stir over low heat until mixture becomes a soft glaze, about three minutes. Mix in food coloring. Gently dip the bottle neck of each cookie, front down, and allow glaze to drip slightly to mimic the Maker’s Mark wax. Lay flat until glaze hardens.

Serve with a spiced cider, such as Rittenhouse Wassail Punch.

© 2012 Amber Drea and New York Drinkie. Unauthorized use or duplication of images and text without express and written permission is strictly prohibited. Excerpts may be quoted, provided that clear credit is given to Amber Drea and New York Drinkie with links directing to the original content.

Sense And Sensuality: Padma Lakshmi’s cuisine inspires Campari cocktails

31 May

As part of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic earlier this month, cookbook author and “Top Chef” star Padma Lakshmi hosted an evening of cocktails and cuisine inspired by recipes from her latest book, “Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet.” Held at The Box burlesque lounge in New York City’s Nolita neighborhood, the fête featured drinks made with the bitter aperitif Campari—the key ingredient in the Negroni cocktail—paired with appetizers taken from Lakshmi’s book. The dark red interior and sultry vintage décor evoked the hue and history of the Italian ruby spirit.

Tony Abou-Ganim, aka The Modern Mixologist, mixed up the classic Negroni, comprising Campari, Plymouth gin, Cinzano Rosso vermouth and an orange slice. The drink’s botanical and citrus aromas highlighted its sweet, smooth palate.

Jim Meehan, a partner at PDT in the East Village, offered the East Indian Negroni, his take on the classic cocktail blending Campari, Banks 5 Island rum, Lustau East India Solera Sherry and an orange twist. Its nutty flavor complemented the “Tart” prosciutto cups, which contained a radish salad with mustard seed caviar.

San Francisco-based mixologist Jacques Bezuidenhout prepared a bowl of Campari Punch, made with Campari, Martini & Rossi Rosato, chamomile tea, blood orange and grapefruit juices, The Bitter Truth Chocolate bitters, and orange and grapefruit oleo saccharum (“sweet oil”). The “Tangy” drink had a hint of bitterness that cut through the creaminess of the crispy chickpea cakes with brown butter raita.

Christy Pope and Chad Solomon of the beverage consulting and catering company Cuffs & Buttons in Brooklyn, New York, put their spin on the Negroni—dubbed “Marco Polo”—by adding an aromatic tincture that blends such spices as pippali pepper, mace, coriander and cardamom. The “Hot” cocktail’s complexity stood up to the spicy merguez sausage with olives and preserved lemon aioli atop toasted bread, as well as the sweet potato pakora with ginger cilantro chutney.

And lastly, Francesco Lafranconi created the Taj Milan cocktail, mixing Campari, Plymouth gin, Strega liqueur and Indian mango curry. The “Sweet” drink was topped with a creamy coconut foam that overpowered the other ingredients and didn’t quite work with the accompanying appetizers—yellowtail ceviche with yuzu and jackfruit on a prawn cracker and a tiger shrimp summer roll with black rice vermicelli and a jicama honey hoisin sauce. The latter was my favorite dish of the night.

Once I’d tried every food and drink pairing, I slipped behind the red velvet stage curtain, along with a handful of other bloggers, reporters and photographers, to speak with the lady of the hour, who emerged looking slightly dazed. Lakshmi smiled gorgeously as the cameras flashed. “I’m drunk,” she laughed apologetically. I asked Lakshmi what she thought was the best way to enjoy Campari. “On the rocks with club soda and some citrus,” she said. “I don’t like sugary drinks. With any good spirit or liqueur, you want to highlight it.”

Afterward, Lakshmi greeted the audience—cocktail in hand—and introduced the evening’s entertainment, courtesy of The Box’s burlesque dancers. She also thanked Campari for its donation to her charity, the Endometriosis Foundation of America.

Featuring scantily clad women and men strutting and gyrating across the stage, the performance was mild compared to the venue’s usual erotically charged fare. “I’ve seen people walk out,” said one attendee of The Box’s more risqué acts.

When the spectacle came to an end, I called it a night. There’s only so much the senses can take in one evening. Talk about sensory overload!

© Amber Drea and New York Drinkie, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of images and text without express and written permission is strictly prohibited. Excerpts may be used, provided that clear credit is given to Amber Drea and New York Drinkie with links directing to the original content.

Fire And Ice: Richard Blais wields liquid nitrogen, dragon fruit and Skyy vodka

12 May

Fresh off taking the title of “Top Chef All-Stars,” Richard Blais wowed a group of roughly 60 diners with his legendary cooking skills for the launch of Skyy Infusions Dragon Fruit at the Andaz hotel in Midtown Manhattan last month. After watching the master of molecular gastronomy compete through two full seasons of the Bravo television series, I couldn’t wait to actually taste his food. Blais made more than one joke about his hair’s resemblance to dragon fruit, saying, “I think that’s why Skyy hired me.”

When I entered the open kitchen area where the event took place, Blais was in the middle of demonstrating his technique for creating crème fraîche pearls (similar to those he made on the finale of “Top Chef All-Stars”) using liquid nitrogen.

The lemony pearls topped an oyster swimming in an Asian pear and sriracha mignonette.

After the demo, I got myself a Blaisin’ Dragon cocktail, made with Skyy Infusions Dragon Fruit and fresh lime, lemon and orange juices, garnished with a pineapple wedge. It was dangerously delicious.

Next I tried the Burrata Bruschetta, topped with micro basil and diced dragon fruit, which reminded me of kiwi, but less sour and a little firmer. The creamy Italian cheese paired well with the mildly sweet fruit.

I cleansed my palate with the tropical and effervescent Sparkling Seduction, mixing Skyy Infusions Dragon Fruit, St-Germain elderflower liqueur, guava purée and Prosecco.

The third hors d’oeuvre comprised crispy fried rabbit foot served in a spoon atop diced dragon fruit and topped with micro basil. It was chewy and sweeter than I expected.

I washed that down with the Red Dragon, a blend of Skyy Infusions Dragon Fruit and pomegranate, lime and lychee juices. The Martini-style drink was vaguely reminiscent of a Cosmopolitan, but way cooler—especially when surrounded by a fog of liquid nitrogen.

Meanwhile, Chef Blais whipped up some frozen vodka in a mixer using liquid nitrogen. Pro tip: Don’t scoop a giant spoonful of sub-zero vodka slush and immediately shove it into your face. Allow the temperature to rise a bit, or you’ll end up “burning” the roof of your mouth as though you’d taken a bite of super hot pizza fresh out of the oven. Not only do you become immediately drunk, but your mouth goes completely numb and remains so for about three days. You’ve been Blaised!

We then sat down for dinner and were served the Muddled Dragon, a twist on a Mojito with Skyy Infusions Dragon Fruit, muddled mint, fresh lime juice, lemongrass simple syrup and club soda. It was also supposed to incorporate liquid nitrogen, but they ran out. Too much molecular madness, I guess!

The light and refreshing cocktail nicely complemented the first course, which featured fresh hamachi doused in Skyy Infusions Dragon Fruit and smoked mayonnaise, accompanied by fried clam strips, red and yellow beet cubes, sliced radish and pickled celery. The clams added a crunchy texture to the raw fish, and the vegetables contrasted the salty mayo.

The Dragon’s Cup arrived next. A take on the Pimm’s Cup, the drink combined Skyy Infusions Dragon Fruit, muddled English cucumber and strawberries, fresh lemon juice and simple syrup. Its subtle sweetness and crisp cucumber flavor provided the perfect backdrop for the main dish.

For the entrée, Blais presented a gorgeously cooked piece of Alaskan halibut slathered with fava bean purée and topped with pickled glasswort. It was served over a brown butter foam with peas and diced carrots. I now understand what all the fuss was about—I could’ve died happy after eating this dish.

Then I tasted the dessert: cornbread with candied dragon fruit, pistachio ice cream and caramel syrup. The combination of savory and sweet was a match made in heaven, or wherever you go post mortem.

Let’s hope that the afterlife has cocktails like the Magic Dragon, which mixed Skyy Infusions Dragon Fruit, orange Curaçao, Rooibos tea simple syrup, kaffir lime leaves and vanilla bean. I daresay it was the best drink of the night.

As for Richard Blais himself, he couldn’t have been nicer. The “Top Chef” champion chatted with me for a few minutes, as I gushed about rooting for him throughout both of the seasons on which he competed. He joked, “You’re still rooting for me, right?” Of course, Richard. After all, you let me take this picture with you.

© Amber Drea and New York Drinkie, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of images and text without express and written permission is strictly prohibited. Excerpts may be used, provided that clear credit is given to Amber Drea and New York Drinkie with links directing to the original content.

Soul Mates: Booze finds its perfect match at Edible Manhattan’s mixer

30 Jan

Food paired with wine or beer is fairly common; less so is food paired with cocktails, the complexity of which can often dominate the dishes. However, if anyone knows how to bring together delicious drinks and bountiful bites, it’s Edible Manhattan, and the magazine’s Good Spirits event at (Le) Poisson Rouge in Washington Square Village definitely delivered. Restaurants and bars teamed up with spirits brands (and one wine) to showcase their best cuisine and cocktails, while foodies and drinkies swarmed throughout the two rooms, dutifully tasting every offering.

One thing’s certain: There was plenty of pig. I began my tour with Peels’ pork and beef sausage hot dog, topped with Brussels sprout slaw (yum!) and Bourbon cherry mustard, and washed it down with the Cherry Crush, comprising Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery’s American Fruits Sour Cherry Cordial, rehydrated cherries, star anise simple syrup, lime juice and a splash of club soda. The drink’s sweet and tangy cherry flavor perfectly complemented the savory sausage.

Next I tried Huckleberry Bar’s peanut butter and banana sandwich, consisting of peanut butter mousse, banana, peanuts, mayonnaise, salt and orange bitters on toasted white bread. It was like a grown-up version of my favorite after school snack, especially when accompanied by The New York Times, which mixed Death’s Door White Whisky, Amaro CioCiaro, Chelsea Brewing’s Imperial Stout and orange bitters. The crisp cocktail cut through the sandwich’s salty creaminess and cleansed the palate.

Huckleberry co-owner Andrew Boggs exhibited the tools of the trade.

I swung by the table of Long Island’s Wölffer Estate Vineyard for a taste of its 2008 Chardonnay, which had great acidity and balance with just a touch of oakiness, and a bite of cheddar polenta topped with crispy bacon and apple purée, courtesy of Jimmy’s 43.

Nearby, Fort Defiance served up deviled eggs, made with smoked black pepper and pickled mustard seeds, and the King Bee, which combined Darjeeling tea-infused Comb vodka—which is distilled from honey—with lemon, a dash of Benedictine liqueur and Prosecco. I love me some deviled eggs!

In the other room, Fette Sau had a spread of barbecued Duroc pork belly, matched with Compass Box’s The Peat Monster, a light and smoky blend of Islay and Highland Scotch whiskies. I’m usually not a fan of peaty whisky, but this one I could drink.

Next up was Palo Santo’s tostada de chicharrón (fried pork rind), topped with a spicy pineapple sauce and presented on a piece of newspaper, street food-style. The dish was paired with a mix of Nonino Chardonnay grappa and crushed pineapple, served in a chili salt-rimmed cup. I found the chunky concoction to be somewhat difficult to drink, and its astringent flavor overpowered the tostada—a rare miss of the night.

Macao Trading Co. delivered with its mushroom and truffle croquette and a tartare of bacalhau—Portuguese for “salted cod”—atop a slice of baguette. Providing a fragrant, citrusy complement, the Macao cocktail comprised lavender-infused St-Germain elderflower liqueur and a sugar cube soaked with lemon bitters, topped with dry Zardetto Prosecco.

Here’s the author, happy and buzzed, in front of a piece from Kate Casanova’s art exhibition “Spoils.” Very festive.

I headed back to the main room and hunted down Lani Kai, Julie Reiner’s new Hawaiian lounge, which served tasty kalua pork on a soft poi pancake and the Pacific Swizzle cocktail, mixing lime juice, passion fruit purée and Don Q Cristal rum that had been infused with rose hips, hibiscus and lemongrass.

Julie is one of New York City’s mover and shakers—she also co-owns Flatiron Lounge, Pegu Club and Clover Club.

The final pork dish of the night was Fonda’s pork in guajillo adobo over white rice, matched with a Ginger Margarita that blended Karma Tequila, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur and lime juice.

For dessert, Northern Spy Food Co. offered a decadent sticky winter pudding soaked with Tuthilltown Spirits’ Hudson Baby Bourbon hard sauce and served with nutmeg custard. The accompanying Tuthilltown Manhattan, made with Hudson Manhattan Rye Whiskey, further warmed my tummy.

To end the evening, I chased Tumbador Chocolate bonbons with a couple shots of Bache Gabrielsen Cognac. There were also Serendipitea and Dallis Coffee stations, but their drinks didn’t contain liquor, so why bother?

© Amber Drea and New York Drinkie, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of images and text without express and written permission is strictly prohibited. Excerpts may be used, provided that clear credit is given to Amber Drea and New York Drinkie with links directing to the original content.