Cherry sherry Manhattans for a crowd

bottled cocktailsRecently, we threw a cocktail party for about 30 friends. Hosting events like this is one of my very favorite things in the whole wide world. Now that we’ve arrived at the age where a lot of our friends have started having babies, seeing each other regularly can sometimes be a tricky business, requiring epic coordination of sitters and nannies and bedtimes. Getting 30 of my favorite people together at one time, in my living room, feels like a much bigger accomplishment than it did six or seven years ago. So when the stars align and it all comes together, I’m psyched. I want to make sure everybody has a fantastic time. And I definitely don’t want to miss my chance to catch up with everyone because I’m stuck behind the bar, slinging drinks all night.

The secret to making it happen: batch cocktails. Continue reading

Reporting back from Sherryfest West 2013

Good things come in barrels. (Obviously.) Therefore, something that comes from many, many barrels must be extra good, right? We went to Portland last week to investigate this theory at Sherryfest West 2013.


Sherry, which is a fortified wine made from palomino grapes in the Jerez region of Spain, sees an awful lot of barrel time when it’s aged in a solera system. A solera is a series of barrels where part of the wine in each barrel is regularly moved to the next stage (or criadera) and replenished with new, younger wine from the criadera before it. This constant partial movement means that by the time wine is drawn out of the last criadera for bottling, it is a mix of wine that is relatively young and wine that can be very, very old—more than 150 years in some of the oldest soleras. During this process, the wine can be aged biologically (under a layer of flavor-producing yeast called flor) and/or oxidatively, by simply leaving the barrels about one-sixth empty to expose the wine to oxygen.

A lot of Americans share an unfortunate cultural memory of sherry as a treacly, cloying after-dinner drink—and a few decades ago, most of what you could buy on the American market probably wasn’t very good. But actually, the vast majority of sherry is completely dry. These dry sherries pair smashingly well with food, providing a range of nutty, saline, and umami tones and occasionally surprising notes like butter toffee, black olive, orange peel, or baking spices. Continue reading

5 new things you should try this summer

Ah, the dog days of summer. What is it about later sunsets that makes us so decadently lazy? Every year it’s the same: Memorial Day rolls around and, like clockwork, we grill burgers five nights a week. Don’t get me wrong—I love burgers as much as the next girl—but if you venture past the culinary usual suspects, summer has so much more to offer.

Don’t miss these five quintessential summer experiences:

  1. Drink fino sherry. Made from the Palomino grape in Spain and allowed to oxidize in a tiered system of barrels called a solera, sherry ranges from pale and light (fino) to dark and deeply nutty (oloroso). These wines are fortified and typically have between 15 and 22 percent alcohol. They age under a layer of yeast called flor, which gives them a unique woodsy characteristic. Refreshing fino sherries make a great aperitif on a warm night and—bonus!—go really well with summery food.
  2. Pickle something. It’s not as difficult as you think. Mix one cup of vinegar with one cup of water, add half a cup of sugar and a quarter cup of kosher or sea salt, and heat in a saucepan until everything is dissolved. Fill a glass jar with some kind of amazing summer produce (yes, fruits work too—try cherries) and pour the pickling liquid in to cover them. Stick the jar in the fridge overnight. Eat the pickles within 3-4 days. Easy, right?
  3. Make your own limoncello. This Italian liqueur, made from the lemons that weigh down the trees of the Amalfi Coast, is typically served after dinner as a digestif—but I like to use it as a base for grown-up lemonade too. To make your own, dissolve 1 3/4 cups of sugar in 2 1/2 cups water, add the zest of 10 lemons and a bottle of high-proof vodka, and steep the mixture in a clean glass bottle for 6 weeks. Then filter it a few times through a chinois or coffee filter, return it to the bottle, and keep in the freezer.
  4. Grill a pizza. Get your grill as hot as possible. Roll your pizza dough out so it’s super-thin. Brush the grill grate with vegetable oil, then slide the round of dough onto the grate and cook for about 1 minute, then flip the crust over and cook for another minute, until the bottom of the crust is browned. Add your favorite toppings and warm the whole pizza on the grill. Pro tip: grilled pizza goes really well with a Bandol rosé.
  5. Get crazy with your strawberries. It’s tough to improve on one of nature’s most perfect foods, but I know of two oddball ways to do it: macerate the berries in balsamic vinegar, or toss them with fresh basil. Or both. Seriously.

What do you love eating and drinking in the summer? Let me know in the comments!

Cocoa Rustica: Bringing cocoa culture to life

Last summer, we hosted a tasting event with Cocoa Rustica founder Mark Sommer at Hearsay HQ. He shared his amazing single-source drinking chocolates and took us on a journey into cocoa culture—both the traditions of the past and his vision for its future.

Caroline Harrison of The Hive Studios was also on hand with her camera for the event, and now a rough cut of her film is available. Check it out!

What we’re drinking

The fantastic wine, beer, and cocktails continue in this edition of… what we’re drinking!

Because we like to have options.

  • Vino Volo. This place is the best thing to happen to airports since airplanes. Tasted a 2003 Medici Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley. How often do you get such tasty wine in an airport? My coworker and I split a bottle for $48 ($36 retail) and it made coach slightly less painful. Let’s also celebrate that there is one in SFO now. -DD
  • 2002 Jose Michel Special Club Champagne. This is only edition #2 of what we’re drinking and I’m already running out of ways to say I love bubbles, but this is one of my favorites this year. This is a super elegant Champagne with a hint of earthiness on the nose followed by great structure and fruit. Do yourself a favor and buy a bottle from Premier Cru before they’re out. (I can’t wait to try the 1998 magnum I picked up.) -DD
  • Variations on the negroni. The classic is equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth–a can’t-fail balance of refreshing, sweet, and bitter flavors. But this drink is also exceptionally well-suited to tinkering. Alter any or all of the components and you’ll come up with something equally, though differently, delicious (but stick with the spirit-bitter-sweet formula). Recent combos at Hearsay HQ have included silver tequila, Aperol, and dry vermouth; aquavit, Aperol, and Carpano Antica; and rye, Campari, and tawny port. -JF