Hi! My apologies for the irregular blog schedule these days, but it’s been hard getting back on track since the holidays due to a variety of issues in my personal life and my other professional life (which helps pay most of the bills at the moment). Anyway, I’ll be back on the Friday Happy Hour Review Trail this Friday somewhere in West Hartford. (Email me if you’d like to meet up and offer your input.)S
THE HEAT IS ON
Get In On These Events, Before You Get Left Out In The Cold
Taking a cue from one of my favorite movie soundtracks (and also showing my age), I’m calling this part – THE HEAT IS ON! (It goes with title.) So right now, I’m trying to get back in the swing of things with what I hope will become a regular feature. I’m starting with updates on a few happenings coming up at two of my favorite places. (As always, if you have events in the world of drink, food and entertainment that you’d like to promote, send them to me: MissBri@thedarkdivarules.com. I’ll do my best to get it featured in this blog segment.)
Here’s what you need to check out at Bistro On Main in Manchester:
Dine Out CT Restaurant Week – February 26 – March 3
Bistro On Main will be offering a special 3 COURSE PRIX FIXE MENU $20.19 Lunch / $30.19 Dinner. Get all the details at the link below!
Interval House Wine Benefit Dinner – March 11 (6:00 PM – 9:00 PM)
Bistro On Main is hosting a special Wine Benefit Dinner on March 11 with all proceeds going to support the work of Interval House and their fight to end domestic violence. Get all the details at the link below!
FAT TUESDAY MARCH 5 On Fat Tuesday (3/5), the dinner menu will feature some French-inspired New Orleans classics. (My alter ego, Diva Queen Cayenne, is already salivating!)
IRISH PUB MARCH 9 – 12 As a prelude to St. Patrick’s Day, Bistro On Main’s menu goes completely Irish! (Oh dear, The Dark O’Diva loves all things Irish!)
Here’s what you need to check out at Hartford Flavor Company in Hartford:
Murder Mystery Dinner – The Toga Trials March 2 at 7:00pm:
Beware the Ides of March! Travel back to ancient Rome and enjoy delicious food by international celebrity chef Wheeler del Torro and Wild Moon cocktail pairings. $70 per person – a bargain for great food, cocktails, and a murder mystery that will prove to be one of the entertainment highlights of the year. Toga attire optional. For more info, check out the link below!
Spring Mixology Class March 27 at 6:00pm & March 30 at 7:00pm:
Hop into Spring and learn how to make, shake and mix up craft cocktails for the Spring season and beyond. “Students” will learn the basics for at home mixology sure to impress friends & family. Tickets are $40 / per person at the door and pizza will be served. These classes sell out, so act now! For more info, check out the link below!
Friday Night Flavor Music Series Starts Back Up on March 15:
Back by popular demand is their Friday night music series. Sip on a delicious Wild Moon cocktail and support the local music scene. So far, they’ve have lined up POSSM, Streetlight Shakers, Audio Jane, Sister Funk, and many more great talents! And, more will be in the coming days. The standard tour/taste/cocktail starts at 4pm before the music starts, so come for that and bring your own food bites. For more info, check out the link below!
I was invited by John Taylor, the driving force behind craft distiller Waypoint Spirits(@waypointspirits, @Drinkwaypoint), to be one of three judges for a bartender competition WaypointSpirits was hosting at its distillery in Bloomfield(CT) this past Sunday.
As with most occupations, there are different levels of artistry and skill in bartending. At the basic level, a good bartender can make the both typical and house specialty drinks efficiently and engage guests to make them feel welcome. The truly excellent bartenders are also mixologists and artists who truly appreciate that they are competing in the entertainment arena. It is a world where style meets substance. And it’s where the best creations appeal to as many of the senses as possible, starting with the visual presentation.
Since our first impression of a drink is what we see in front us, the artistry of the color, glass style and, particularly the garnishes, plays a huge role in our expectations. In this case, these bartenders were challenged with taking a Bloody Mary* to new heights of attraction with their imaginative garnishes. As you can see from the photos, they got very creative using the Waypoint supplied garnishes, but Stephanie thought outside the box, so to speak, and brought in a host of intriguing additions for her garnishes, including pita pockets, pomegranate stuffed olives and even duck legs! While all the garnish treatments were impressive, Stephanie’s outrageous works of art towered over the others. The other judges (@cheyney_b and Emily from @yelphartford) and I unanimously declared her the winner of the garnishing competition.
* (The Bloody Marys were all made with Waypoint Spirits Spicy XIII Vodka, which is made for with 13 herbs and spices – everything you’d put in a Bloody Mary but the juice, which in this case was V-8.)
What they whipped up went down sooo good!
Next, the bartenders went up against each other to create drinks using Waypoint Spirits craft-distilled liquors and a variety of liqueurs and essential mixing ingredients, but with a devious twist. After the bartenders selected their ingredients, some of the choices were exchanged randomly with those of their competitors to truly challenge their ingenuity under fire. And the results were amazing. There wasn’t a single one I didn’t enjoy, which showed in how close they were in the judging with Khalid just edging out Stephanie for first place. In the end, with her close second place in this competition and her victory margin in the garnishing round, Stephanie won the overall competition.
We also had a couple of guest bartenders, Jeff(who works for a distributor) and Amelia(an actress and bartender from New York who recently moved to CT), mixed up some tasty drinks for us as well. Needless to say, the rest of my Sunday was kind of a wasted day, but so relaxing.
I do love my job!
As I like to tell people, I drink professionally because it’s my job as a mixologist and a reviewer! So, I truly appreciate and respect the incredible talent and commitment of those involved in crafting the highest quality spirits and those who create and serve the appealing drinks that make life just that more enjoyable.
That said, I have to compliment and congratulate all of the bartenders as well as John and his Waypoint Spirits staff, including Erin, who coordinates events plus Khalid, and Tony, who also work with Waypoint in addition to their regular bartending gigs. It was a fabulous afternoon of sampling drinks while getting to chat with the bartenders and those who came to observe the competition. It would be well worth going to visit Stephanie, Khalid, Dustin and Tony at their bars to enjoy their skills first hand for yourself. (In Stephanie’s case, I had previously seen her on the job when I reviewed the Friday Happy Hour at Zohara back in October. They both got a top rating.) Just tell them The Dark Diva sent you!
I was also quite impressed with Waypoint’s Spicy XIII Vodka, which I had sampled before, but never to the extent that I did on Sunday. If you like a spicy Bloody Mary or Bloody Caesar that’s simple to make, I highly recommend trying the Spicy XIII, because, with its 13 ingredients, it and the juice V-8/ tomato or Clamato) are all you need. Additionally, Waypoint also offers a Coffee Liqueur that is both smoother and lighter than many I’ve tried, which makes it an ideal choice for any bar.
Thanks for checking out my blog! As always, I welcome your questions, comments and suggestions.
And now I think I’ll go have what’s left of Bloody Mary batch that … er … followed me home Sunday! Haha
As the Christmas countdown starts to accelerate (technically time passes at the same rate, but it sure feels like it speeds up when it comes to getting ready for the holidays), finding the perfect gifts can always be a challenge. Hopefully, you got some ideas from our last post (The Dark Diva’s Holiday Social & Survival Guide Part 3: Gifts For Drink Lovers Made Easy, Fun & Unique). And in this post, we’re going to expand on that theme with suggestions on how to create your own unique “Spirits of Connecticut” gift sets that will surprise and delight any drink lover on your list.
Creativity Counts, But There Are A Few Rules
Okay, I get what you’re thinking – how can you be creative when there are rules? Like them or not, there are always some rules you have to consider. These shouldn’t really impair your inventiveness, but they are important.
1) I shouldn’t even have to post this rule, but just to make sure there is no misunderstanding. RECIPIENTS OF THESE GIFT SETS MUST BE AT LEAST 21 YEARS OF AGE! That’s the law, and it’s just plain good sense.
2) There are some special rules governing shipping alcohol, so check with your carrier before attempting to ship one of these gift sets to someone. (Also pack the contents carefully even if delivering it yourself or you could ruin more than the surprise.)
And that’s pretty much it. So, really not that much to worry about. Now let’s get to the fun stuff!
Use Your Imagination And Have Some Fun (But Save Some of The Spirits to Actually Put In The Gift Set!)
Caught ya! Miss Bri knows all the tricks (not that I’ve ever done any of them of course … er … ummm … well … never mind)! While I’ve suggested the specific spirits and a few other contents, feel free to add other things like a CT-themed shot glass, mixers or anything else that comes to mind. That extends to how you package it as well, whether it’s a crate, a basket, a box or whatever. (Also, I’ve specified products from craft-distillers I’ve reviewed so far. If you are familiar with one I haven’t visited, feel free to use their products though it may make a difference in how some of my suggested cocktails taste due to potentially different flavor profiles.)
The Spirits of Connecticut:
Cool As A Connecticut Cuke Gift Set
For anyone who enjoys a refreshing Gin & Tonic, this gift set promises a definite twist of cool taste and attitude.
• WAYPOINT SPIRITS CRAFT-DISTILLED WINTONBERRY GIN(750 ML) (Lighter and more refreshing than typical gins, with an infusion of locally sourced botanical and floral elements, Wintonberry is made from locally-sourced ingredients.) • WILD MOON® CUCUMBER LIQUEUR(375 ML) • WILD MOON® LIME LIQUEUR(375 ML) (Crafted locally by Hartford Flavor Company, these authentic-tasting, delicious liqueurs are all-natural and gluten-free.) • ROCKS GLASS WITH A CT THEME (I used my own recently acquired Waypoint Spirits Rocks Glass ($6) as a suggested inclusion. A Wild Moon® glass would also make an excellent addition to the set.)
The Dark Diva’s “Cool As A Cuke Sin & Tonic” AKA The Twisted Chiller
I found that Wintonberry Gin, Wild Moon® Cucumber & Wild Moon® Lime mix well with a wild hair for fun refreshment in the sun. Why “Sin & Tonic” you ask? (Seriously, if you have to ask, check your pulse because you may be dead.)
In a glass with ice, combine the following:
1 oz. Waypoint Spirits Wintonberry Gin 0.5 oz. Wild Moon® Cucumber Liqueur 4 oz. Diet Tonic Water (Diet? Yes, if you’re going to sin, go for sex, booze, rock ‘n’ roll, chocolate, fun stuff — not useless sugar in tonic water) A Splash of Wild Moon® Lime Liqueur
Mix well and garnish with either a slice of cucumber or a lime wheel if desired. Cheers!
The Spirits of Connecticut:
A Berry Cheery Holiday Gift Set
All the classic ingredients plus a few additions for a fresh holiday twist on a classic cocktail!
• WAYPOINT SPIRITS CRAFT-DISTILLED LABRADOR NOON VODKA(750 ML) (Very smooth with virtually no harsh alcohol burn, Labrador Noon is exceptionally mixable or fine as shot.) • WILD MOON® CRANBERRY LIQUEUR(375 ML) (Crafted locally by Hartford Flavor Company, this authentic-tasting, delicious liqueur is all-natural and gluten-free.) • SMIRNOFF® RASPBERRY VODKA(750 ML) (While not a craft spirit, Smirnoff is distilled in CT.) • ROCKS OR MARTINI GLASS (WITH A CT THEME)
• STANLEY® SCREWDRIVER SET(OPTIONAL) (Stanley® Tools are made in CT.)
Santa’s Berry Twisted Stanley Screwdriver
Another holiday concoction from The Dark Diva’s “La-Bar-Atory” with all CT alcohols, this is a great treat for Santa’s helpers when dealing with “some assembly required” surprises late on Christmas Eve nights!!! (I recommend finishing the assembly before finishing too many of these concoctions!)
Fill rocks glass OR shaker with ice, then mix:
1 oz. Waypoint Spirits Labrador Noon Vodka 0.5 oz. Wild Moon® Cranberry Liqueur 0.5 oz. Smirnoff® Raspberry Vodka 3 oz. Orange Juice
Stir in rocks glass and serve OR shake and strain into a chilled martini glass!
Ho! Ho! Cheers!
The Spirits of Connecticut:
Every Day’s A Twisted Holiday Gift Set
This versatile gift set is the basis for two of my special recipes, but I’m sure the recipients won’t stop there. One of my recipes is also great for warm weather so they can literally make any day a holiday.
• WAYPOINT SPIRITS CRAFT-DISTILLED
MAN OVERBOARD SPICED RUM(750 ML) (A bit lighter and smoother than other spiced rums I’ve tried, this the first one I enjoyed enough to actually buy and use.) • WILD MOON® CRANBERRY LIQUEUR(375 ML) • WILD MOON® LIME LIQUEUR(375 ML) (Crafted locally by Hartford Flavor Company, these authentic-tasting, delicious liqueurs are all-natural and gluten-free.) • ROCKS GLASS(WITH A CT THEME)
Twisted Mystic Rumberry Cocktail
Naming this cocktail was almost too easy! The image of sailors coming ashore in Mystic to quench their thirst with rum combined with traditional cranberries for the holidays led to this cheery year-round refresher.
In rocks glass filled with ice, mix;
1.0 oz. Waypoint Spirits Man Overboard Spiced Rum 0.5 oz. Wild Moon® Cranberry Liqueur 0.5 oz. Wild Moon® Lime Liqueur 2.0 oz. Diet Cranberry Juice
Stir and serve! Just try not to go overboard! Cheers!
Twisted Windsor Nutmegger Eggnog
Honoring CT’s first town and featuring all CT spirits, this smooth hen’s moo concoction is a perfectly potent and nicely spiced way to celebrate the holidays with friends.
In rocks glass filled with ice, mix;
1.5 oz. Waypoint Spirits Man Overboard Spiced Rum 0.5 oz. Wild Moon® Cranberry Liqueur 3.0 oz. Eggnog A Sprinkle of Nutmeg
Stir, serve and toast the season! Cheers!
***Gift Guide Update***
Since last week’s blog post, there have been a few updates in our Gifting Guide.
NEW! Waypoint Spirits Sampler Set
Waypoint Spirits in Bloomfield has just introduced a Sampler Set featuring six 100 ml bottles of their signature craft-distilled liquors, including Labrador Noon Vodka, Wintonberry Gin, Man Overboard Spiced Rum and Spicy XIII Vodka. Priced at $40, the set comes in a wood-slat crate with rope carrying handle. Contact them at drinkwaypoint.com for more details.
REMINDER! Hartford Flavor Company Hours
Just a reminder that you can stop by Hartford Flavor Company Monday – Thursday during the holiday season from 9-5 to purchase Wild Moon® Liqueurs and merchandise only. (Tours and tastings are Friday evenings, Saturday afternoons and Sunday afternoons only.) Contact them at hartfordflavor.com for more details.
Let us know if you have questions or anything to share!
So now we’ve reached the final part of our Holiday Social & Survival Guide with tips on unique gift ideas, including custom cocktails, for your favorite drink lovers, from those who just appreciate drinks and alcohols with new and intriguing flavors to those with discriminating taste for distilling excellence to serious mixologists.
Share The Joy (literally):
Take Them Out To A Craft Distillery
Or A Top Happy Hour
What better gift to give than one you can share like a tasting at a local craft distillery or a top reviewed Happy Hour. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t love this gift. It’s thoughtful, fun and can be fairly reasonable, especially a distillery tasting.
Craft Distillery Tours & Tastings
If you’re in Connecticut, there are a number of craft distillers across the state, although not all offer tours and/or tastings. You can find a list of craft distillers here with links to more information. Create a nice, formal invitation for the recipient(s) to be your guest(s) for a tour & tasting, as your Christmas gift to them, on a specific date over the holidays (or after).
I have visited and reviewed two of these craft distillers in the greater Hartford area, which I can personally recommend: Hartford Flavor Companyin Hartford and Waypoint Spirits in Bloomfield. Both offer affordable Saturday and Sunday afternoon tours
and tastings, although hours may vary during the holidays. (Click on their respective names to visit their web sites for details and contact information.) It’s a great way to get acquainted with the distiller’s art and try something new. The guides do a great job of engaging guests and conveying a lot of information in an entertaining manner.
Top Reviewed Happy Hours
Check through local reviews online (such as Miss Bri’s Fresh & Twisted Blog) to find fresh, interesting Happy Hours, and treat special friends to a visit during the holidays. You’ll find some recommendations for Happy Hours to visit in the greater Hartford area listed here with links to my reviews. Going out for Happy Hour at some place new can be a really nice treat for everyone.
Click on the name to read my review, which also includes a link to the location’s web site:
Pour On The Thoughtfulness:
Give Them Craft Distilled Liquors & Liqueurs
As Well As Distinctive Barware
Want to wrap up your Christmas shopping with a twist? Then surprise your
favorite drink lover with something different – a bottle of liquid goodness from a local craft distiller. Here are just a few suggestions from craft distillers in the greater Hartford area.
The Wild Moon® Liqueurs Variety Pack
Featuring 100ml bottles of six different Wild Moon® liqueurs (Lime, Cucumber, Lavender, Rose, Birch and Chai Spice), this is a great introduction to these all-natural, gluten-free spirits that are crafted in Hartford by the Hartford Flavor Company. The variety pack and a range of other Hartford Flavor Company/Wild Moon® themed products (barware, shirts and more) are available at the Hartford Flavor Company. Visit their web site here for more details.
Show your friends that you are a thoughtful and perceptive person with excellent tastes by giving them one of Waypoint Spirits’ locally crafted liquors (distilled in Bloomfield), such as Labrador Noon Vodka(a very smooth, premium-style vodka), Wintonbury Gin(botanically infused, more in the mold of Hendrick’s with less juniper flavor), and Small Batch Honey Habanero Flavored Whiskey(the spice is right for those who like a little firewater). Visit their web site here for details.
A set of 4 initialed or monogrammed Old-Fashioned or On-The-Rocks glasses makes a beautifully distinctive and highly appreciated gift for any mixologists. A bar mat for mixing, a good quality shaker and durable bar tools also make nice gifts for your favorite mixologist. You can find them online at Amazon and Bar & Vine as well as locally at places as diverse as Williams Sonoma and Target.
Give A Gift That Is Totally Unique:
Their Own Custom-Crafted Cocktail Recipe
From The Dark Diva
Whether you want a truly one-of-a-kind gift for someone very special or a perfectly themed cocktail to take a special holiday event to the next level, nothing compares to the cocktail crafting wizardry and backstory creativity of The Dark Diva.
Here’s what a recent client said of the three custom-crafted cocktails I created for an event she planned:
“I wanted to let you know that last night was a great success especially with the signature cocktails! The ranks were split between the Velvet Voodoo Martini (… my favorite) and the Purple Magic Martini. I think the Autumn Paradise would have done better but for the literal heat wave that hit us yesterday afternoon (!) which made it hard to get in the groove for fall LOL …”
And her guests concurred:
“What a wonderfully fun evening! How clever to have a signature cocktail tasting. That Velvet Voodoo Martini was so sweet and smooth – I wanted to slip into a bathtub full of it!”
“Purple Magic Martini – this was simply scrumptious! Fruity without being too sweet, and I like sweet!
“Autumn Paradise Martini – As someone who hates Autumn, I wasn’t even going to try this one between the pumpkin and butterscotch, BUT, the flavors blended well, and it truly was a treat, not a trick!”
Created for a party of stressed out executive assistants, these colorfully named custom-crafted cocktails also included a short story with them. (I don’t share the recipe specifics publicly, however, since they now belong to the client which assures they will remain unique.)
The Velvet Voodoo Martini
(AKA The Karma’s A Bitch Martini)
Sometimes when you’re at the end of your rope, all you want to do is make a noose out of it and hang your boss. For anyone who is overworked and underappreciated by a ridiculously demanding boss, The Velvet Voodoo Martini is made with dark magic (Irish spirits, exotic spices and sneakily irresistible flavors) that will give you sweet velvet dreams of the moment when you just walk out and leave your boss completely helpless. And, just maybe, your boss will have the same dream. If it doesn’t scare him/her to death, it should at least scare them into showing more appreciation for all you do. (Just for fun, look up poisons on Google frequently so your boss can see it. Later, tell him/her you have to meet the exterminator at your house about poisoning some rats and ask if he/she wants you to pick up lunch for them – be very insistent. That should give them pause. Haha!)
The Diva’s Purple Magic Martini
(AKA “Beam Me Up Scotty,
There’s No Intelligent Life down Here!” Martini)
This concoction is made for those days when everyone you have deal with is an ill-tempered, impatient moron who couldn’t find their butt with both hands and directions. No matter how simply and patiently you try to explain to them that what they want is not what they need, not reasonable or just simply impossible, they have all the comprehension of a two-year-old, so they pitch a fit. While you can’t do what you feel like doing to them (unless you have lots of money, access to the dark web to hire a hitman, and an ironclad alibi), you can make them all magically disappear for a while with this deliciously sweet escape that will let you boldly go where no where no boss can find you!
The Autumn Paradise Martini
(AKA “The Leaf Me Alone, I’m Having A Moment” Martini)
Like a walk through the woods on a glorious autumn afternoon, with the fresh crispness of a cool fall breeze as the bright sunshine brings nature’s spectacular palette of scarlet, gold, yellow, green and rust to vivid life, this is a moment to savor in a New England paradise. No demanding bosses. No uncooperative co-workers. No screaming kids. No annoying spouse. Now that moment is yours in a glass with The Autumn Paradise Martini. Just forget everything and chill with every sip, after warning everyone that they might encounter the Grim Reaper if they disturb your moment (or moments) in Autumn Paradise!
Just when you thought it was safe, The Dark Diva’s alter ego has gone wild in the “la-bar-atory” to createthis spicy fall concoction!
It ain’t your mama’s hot apple pie!
In a glass with ice, combine:
• 1.5 oz. Full Moonshine Apple Pie
• 1.0 oz. Waypoint Spirits Small Batch Honey Habanero Flavored Whiskey
• 0.5 oz. Cruzan®Vanilla Rum • 0.25 oz. La Belle Orange Gran Orange Liqueur
• 2 Dashes Tabasco®Original Pepper Sauce
Stir well, strain into a chilled martini glass and toast the sweet heat!
The Royal Street Jazz
AKA King’s Twisted Blues!
The Dark Diva’s at it again with another recipe celebrating #NOLA and #NCISNewOrleans. This lethal cocktail consists of:
• 1.0 oz. Sazerac®Rye Straight Rye Whiskey • 0.5 oz. Sweet Vermouth • 0.25 oz. La Belle Orange Gran Orange Liqueur
• 6 Dashes Angostura Bitters
Mix ingredients together in an 8 oz. glass with ice, stir and jazz up the moment with a toast to Royal Street!
Hard to believe it’s the 17thAnniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. So, wherever you are today, please join with me in a toast to the memory of the victims and to honor all the first responders and others who made whatever sacrifices were necessary to rescue the survivors. Cheers!
Here in CT, we had a delightful preview of autumn with cooler temps, which was a welcome break from the recent heat wave. It also seemed like the perfect time to crack the seal on the jar of Full Moonshine Apple Pie I had been saving since my trip to Hickory Ledges Farm & Distillery back in August and create some new recipes for the season. We’ll get to those a little later in the blog. First, I want to share my review of Friday Happy Hour at The Republic in Bloomfield, CT.
Service Was Right On The Mark … Literally
Those of you who follow my blog know that I place a premium on service when visiting a bar for Friday Happy Hour. The lack of a smile or an indifferent attitude can make any bar seem ordinary and amplify even the smallest imperfections to the point negating any price or selection advantages. At the same time, a friendly outgoing bartender can elevate the appeal of any bar to exceptional status. And while the places I’ve reviewed so far have done very well in the service area, The Republic took it to new level.
I arrived at The Republic a little after 4 PM on Friday and found an empty seat at the bar. As soon as I had gotten myself situated, the bartender quickly approached with a warm smile and introduced himself as Mark (hence the subhead) and asked for my name, which he used all through my time there. Personally, I find that to be an important aspect of making me feel welcome at a bar. It was also the first time since I’ve been doing these reviews that the bartender has introduced himself/herself and used my name other than on the tab. That places Mark and The Republic as unique right from the start. And the service continued on a high note from there, as my every request was handled quickly and efficiently with a smile.
There was another bartender also working, but her interactions were with other guests. As a result, I can’t really provide a review of her work specifically, although she seemed to have an excellent attitude from what I could see.
(Before I left, I told Mark that I had been doing a bar review and asked him a few questions. I learned that he’s been bartending there since The Republic opened in 2012. That speaks well for The Republic in being smart enough to make sure he stayed!)
There’s A Lot of Happiness
In Their Happy Hour Cocktails
The Happy Hour cocktail special consisted of well drinks for $5, which is fairly standard. However, that’s the only thing I would classify as standard, since their “well” vodka (Labrador Noon) and gin (Wintonbury) are excellent locally distilled varieties by Waypoint Spirits (also in Bloomfield). I have classified both as premium products in my comparison videos. Additionally, I like to see local bars supporting our craft distillers, when their products are good as in the case of Waypoint Spirits.
The surprises continued as I watched Mark make my Wintonbury Gin and Tonic. I expected it to come in a typical 8 oz. glass, but what I got was a huge glass (as you can see from the accompanying image) filled with a very good gin and tonic that was definitely an exceptional value, especially considering the smoothness of the Wintonbury Gin. After finishing my cocktail, I opted to downshift to the cabernet (also $5). It was a generous pour of wine that had a nice depth of flavor with a mellow warmth that was quite enjoyable.
Oysters on the Half Shell
Make Me as Happy as a Clam
Bad puns aside, the Happy Hour menu has something for everyone and, for me, that means oysters at $1.50 each. Since I can’t eat cheese, a lot of happy hour menu options are not available to me, so I rate the menu based on whether I can find something without cheese that appeals to my taste, like the East Coast Oysters. Being hungry I ordered six, which were so tasty they didn’t last long enough for me to take a picture of the nice presentation. Needless to say, a majority of you will easily find something you’ll like.
C’mon Feel the Noise … It’s Alive
At the time I arrived, there was a talkative crowd on the front patio, but the interior was relatively quiet. However, that began to change as it got later and more crowded. I had been chatting with the couple next to me at the bar when we noticed the noise level increasing exponentially. They told me it was teachers coming in (students are not the only ones happy for the weekend). It added an infectious liveliness to the atmosphere with so many voices talking, laughing and enjoying themselves.
Apart from the noise level, everything else about The Republic ambiance is quietly welcoming with an engaging mix of industrial modern and classic New England décor elements including a long, metal-topped bar and plenty of stools.
From the moment Mark introduced himself through the huge Wintonbury Gin & Tonic and more, The Republic stood out as a distinctively different Friday Happy Hour experience that deserved nothing less than my highest rating as ***UNIQUELY RECOMMENDED***! With the exceptional service, impressive drink values, diverse menu and inviting atmosphere, it’s easy to understand why it enjoys a high degree of popularity and strong allegiances.
Check out their website for more details, including hours, menus and directions.
Tell them The Dark Diva sent you!
Queen Cayenne’s French Quarter Bitch Slap
AKA The Devil Comes In Red Stilettos!
As the song says, it’s a good idea to never mess with The Dark Diva’s alter ego unless you want to get burned.
A word of warning down in New Orleans,
Never wanna mess with a voodoo queen.
She’s got spells that will set your heart on fire,
And turn your soul into a funeral pyre.
So, better make sure that you understand,
Nobody brings the heat like Queen Cayenne.
If she finds out that you been messin’ round,
She’s gonna light you up and burn you down.
Oh, hell yeah, you better know that she can,
‘cause nobody’s hotter than Queen Cayenne.
So, if Queen Cayenne gives you a French Quarter Bitch Slap, just say thank you! This spicy concoction with the even spicier name consists of:
• 1.0 oz. Sazerac® Rye Straight Rye Whiskey
• 0.5 oz. Chartreuse Liqueur
• 0.25 oz. Waypoint Spirits Small Batch Honey Habanero Flavored Whiskey
• 0.25 oz. La Belle Orange Gran Orange Liqueur
• 2.0 oz. Club Soda
Mix ingredients together in an 8 oz. glass with ice, stir and toast sweet death with a kick!
Try These Dark Diva Cocktails
And See Why Autumn Never Tasted So Good!
Autumn Dream Martini
Get your fall preview party started with this high-octane trip to nirvana … the dark side of the Harvest Moon … or wherever you end up. Just don’t try to drive there!
In a glass with ice, combine:
• 2.0 oz. Full Moonshine Apple Pie
• 1.0 oz. Skyy Infusions® Vanilla Bean Vodka
• 0.5 oz. Skyy Infusions® Bartlett Pear Vodka
Stir, strain into a chilled martini glass and toast the fruits of the still!
Husky Hokie TD Juice
AKA Twisted Autumn Cheer
A cool autumn weather preview, college football and my Hokie Husky TD Juice = Party-time!This drink salutes the Huskies of UConn in the state I now call home as well as the Hokies of Virginia Tech, my alma mater. A couple of these and you’ll be ready to dribble the football all the way around the bases and score on a penalty kick!
In an 8 oz. glass with ice, mix:
• 2.0 oz. Full Moonshine Apple Pie
• 0.5 oz. Skyy Infusions® Vanilla Bean Vodka
• 1.0 oz. Maker’s Mark® Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky
• A Splash of Wild Moon® Birch Liqueur
Stir and toast your favorite team (as long as it’s the same as mine)!
A Very Twisted Apple Pie a la Mode
It’s dessert in a glass … with a bit of a kick just for fun! Try it with somebody special in front of a fire on a crisp autumn night … either before or after the kinky stuff.
In a glass with ice, combine:
• 2.0 oz. Full Moonshine Apple Pie
• 1.0 oz. Skyy Infusions® Vanilla Bean Vodka • 2.0 oz. Irish Cream Liqueur
Stir, strain into a chilled martini glass and toast your inhibitions good-bye!
HOPE YOU ENJOYED THIS EDITION OF MISS BRI’S FRESH & TWISTED BLOG. THANKS FOR CHECKING IT OUT. PLEASE LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK!
Welcome to Monday as we start the final week of August with the forecast for a heat wave … ugh! After living in New England for 13 years, this is the first year I can truthfully say that I am actually looking forward to the cooler weather of fall. Of course, one of the best ways to beat the heat is with a cool libation, especially when it’s served in the right environment. And that leads to this week’s Friday Happy Hour Bar Review.
The Mill On The River: Friday Happy Hour Bar Review
Past and Present Mix Perfectly
at this Spot on the Podunk River
Yes, there is a Podunk River (named for the Podunk tribe of Native Americans), which flows through South Windsor, CT. It was here that colonists first built a mill and damn over 250 years ago. The original mill was destroyed by a flood in 1750, then rebuilt in 1775. Eventually, over the years it fell into disrepair before being rebuilt into The Mill On The River restaurant that exists today.
I will admit that I had been there for dinner twice several years ago and twice last year for their Sunday brunch. On all four occasions, the food and the service were excellent. But this past week marked my first time there for Friday Happy Hour. Not to prolong the suspense, it did not disappoint!
Located on Route 30 (Ellington Road) in a quiet residential area, The Mill on the River offers an appealing vista with Vintons Millpond, water cascading down the face of the mill dam and the covered footbridge above the dam leading to the entrance. Inside, it’s classic New England colonial charm with the dark wood and stone décor, lots of windows and a sense of history. Yet, there are just enough modern accents, especially around the bar so that it feels fresh at the same time. It’s a juxtaposition that works very well. Inside the bar, windows on two sides provide plenty of natural light and pleasant, relaxing views of the outdoor dining deck, millpond and grounds.
The Bar was Hopping,
but the Staff Never Missed a Beat
By the time I arrived around 4:20, Happy Hour had already been going for a while (it starts at 3). The bar was reasonably crowded, although there were still a few seats available. It was an interesting mix of couples and small groups of various ages that were all chatting happily and giving a convivial rhythm to the noise of the conversations that made the place feel alive and inviting.
Behind the bar, Greg (the bartender) had his own rhythm going in juggling the acknowledging of each guest, taking their orders, mixing/pouring their drinks and never dropping the ball so to speak. He’s apparently quite experienced, because there was a smooth flow to every action. I never felt like it was taking too long for my drinks or my appetizer to arrive. It was exactly what you want … and should expect. A little bit after my arrival, he had help with service bar and the regular bar as it got even more crowded. Still, everything worked in perfect harmony.
Happy Hour Food Left Me Smiling …
One of the things that has consistently impressed me on my Happy Hour rounds has been the variety, quality and value of the food specials, and The Mill on the Riverwas certainly no exception. Not having had clams for quite some time, I opted for their Crisp Rhode Island Fried Clam Strips for $5.
What I got was a generous portion of perfectly fried clam strips with just the right amount of batter and very little grease. They were served with both remoulade and tartar sauce, which were delicious, although I found that I preferred the remoulade better. A nice touch was the bit of cheesecloth over the accompanying lemon half, so the seeds didn’t squirt out. I ate almost all of them, before reaching my limit. Definitely praise worthy on all counts!
Happy Hour Drink Deals Worthy of A Grin,
And Not Much More
Unfortunately, if there was one area where the value was a bit questionable, it was in the cocktail prices. I realize I’m being somewhat picky, but since the drink deals are the centerpiece of Happy Hour, at least for me, I feel justified in my pickiness. Cocktails made with liquors from the well are $6, which I consider a bit high considering my Cosmopolitan was made with McCormick’s vodka. Now, I will say it was made well and tasted fine. Plus, I am not a believer that price is always indicative of quality. However, McCormick’s is still very inexpensive, so it feels like drinks made with it should be less than $6.
The $5 deal on their own private label wines felt more reasonable. I chose the cabernet which was smooth and pleasant, but nothing extraordinary. It was also a generous pour, which contributed to making it feel like a relatively better value.
Despite my reservations about the Happy Hour cocktail pricing, The Mill on the River sets a very high standard with the service, the food and the extraordinary setting. I am compelled to give their Friday Happy Hour my top rating of ***UNIQUELY RECOMMENDED*** because in many ways there’s nothing else like it.
Check out their Friday Happy Hour and tell them The Dark Diva sent you!
The Heat Is Always On At
Queen Cayenne’s Red-Hot Gator Club
Queen Cayenne is The Dark Diva’s alter ego, inspired by a love of New Orleans, Tabasco®hot sauce, Cholula®hot sauce, spicy cooking (especially Cajun), hot blues and jazz music, and sultry dark magic. But a word of warning … when you mess with Queen Cayenne, you are definitely playing with fire. She will light you up, burn you down, and leave what’s left for gator bait!
Here are some of Queen Cayenne’s favorite recipes for her Voodoo potions … er … cocktails, which have been recently featured on The Dark Diva Rules Facebook page, Twitter feed and Instagram:
Queen Cayenne’s Sweet Hellfire Whiskey
The perfect accompaniment when you’re grilling, this cocktail brings sweet heat. When you’re hot … burn, baby, burn! In an 8 oz. glass with ice, combine:
1.0 oz. Waypoint Spirits Small Batch Honey Habanero Flavored Whiskey
1.0 oz. Maker’s Mark®Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky
0.5 oz. Patrón Citrónge®Extra Fine Mango Liqueur
0.25 oz. Mathilde Pêche (Peach) Liqueur Splash Wild Moon®Lime Liqueur 2 Dashes Tabasco®Brand Pepper Sauce
Stir ingredients, sip carefully and start cooking … before you light the grill!
Queen Cayenne’s Cajun Gator Bite
Feeling mean? Try tangling with this cocktail that bites back … it’s green whiskey fire with serious teeth! In an 8 oz. glass with ice, combine:
1.0 oz. Waypoint Spirits Small Batch Honey Habanero Flavored Whiskey
1.0 oz. Full Moonshine Circa 1797 Neutral Spirits
0.5 oz. Green Chartreuse Liqueur
0.25 oz. Patrón Citrónge®Extra Fine Orange Liqueur 4 Drops Tabasco®Brand Pepper Sauce
Stir ingredients, sip carefully and hope you don’t end up as gator bait … chomp!
Queen Cayenne’s French Devil
(AKA Twisted Triple 6)
This is a new one for those who’ll try anything once … maybe twice if they survive the first time. After a hard day of wrestling cantankerous reptiles (whether in the swamp or at the office), you’re ready to play with some serious fire! In a brandy snifter, combine:
1.0 oz. Green Chartreuse Liqueur
1.0 oz. Landy Cognac V.S.
Stir, sip carefully and feel the burn! Beware the beast …
Thanks for reading this blog post! Please let us know if you have comments or questions. Also, feel free to offer suggestions of any Happy Hours you’d like to see us review!
Okay, I admit that I lied in the headline. There’s nothing wilder than Miss Bri, because I know no limits! Haha! However, aside from that, my friends at Hartford Flavor Company (makers of all the Wild Moon Liqueurs I use in my recipes) sent me these events to get your weekend started off right!
Parkville Block Party – This Saturday 8/25 all day until Midnight
One of Hartford’s newest and biggest parties! Come partake in this neighborhood-wide festival and experience art, music, food and entertainment all day long at Parkville’s numerous cultural venues. We’ll be open for tours/tastes/cocktails from 1-5pm at which time the Underwood Afterparty will begin with great live music at our space and at our next door neighbor, Real Art Ways. Click here for more information about the entire day’s events.
Other upcoming events include:
Friday Night Flavor Music Series: back by popular demand is our Friday night music. Sip on a delicious Wild Moon cocktail and support the local music scene. Our standard tour/taste/cocktail starts at 4pm before the music starts, so come for that and bring your own food bites. More info here: Friday Night Flavor.
Check Out My Uniquely Recommended Friday Hours
Be sure to get your weekend started where The Dark Diva has been before and given her top rating …
Max’s Oyster Bar in West Hartford and …
Ted’s Montana Grill at Evergreen Walk in South Windsor
Hope you’re enjoying this magnificent Sunday in Connecticut as we get our first real break in like “forevah” (I lived in Mass, for 13 years!)from the tropical heat, humidity and monsoon rains. I actually cut off the AC units in my apartment and opened the windows to get some fresh air while writing this blog post. And, since we’ve got a lot to cover, let’s jump right into it.
Friday Happy Hour Bar Review:
Slip Away from The Herd at Ted’s Montana Grill in South Windsor
Okay, so I should probably apologize for the herd puns, but I know you’re secretly laughing at them. Anyway, in my quest to find distinctive Happy Hour venues and offerings, I ended up this past Friday at Ted’s Montana Grill at Evergreen Walk in South Windsor. Online, it said their Happy Hour ran Monday – Friday from 3 PM – 7 PM, so I decided to go early and avoid the crowd. It definitely worked, because I was the only customer at the rather long bar when I got there at 3:30. Apparently, the early starting time was a fairly recent change. Combined with folks trying to get things done outside before the storms were supposed to hit, it assured a quiet afternoon, at least while I was there. I’m not complaining, though, since it’s sometimes nice to relax and unwind without having to fight for a seat or get jostled, squeezed and generally have your personal space invaded by latecomers trying to get a drink.
A Bit Of The Old West In Central Connecticut:
It’s Also A Bit More Polished, So Bring Your Manners Not Your Spurs
Aside from noting the crowd (or lack thereof), one of the first things I always
focus on is the look and feel of the bar area. Made of dark wood, the bar itself and the liquor shelving behind it had a definite western vibe going on. It even extended to the bison head mounted on the wall at the end of the bar. All in all, it felt upscale, thematically and corporately in alignment with their image, but maybe just a bit too masculine for my tastes. (That’s a very subjective judgement, so take it with a grain of salt.)
Not Your Typical Chain:
Limited Happy Hour Menu Still Has Some Unique Offerings
One of the biggest drawing cards for me was a chance to try bison (affordably)to see if I liked it. I was excited to try the Buckland, a 3 oz. burger made with either beef ($6) or bison ($7), which I selected. It arrived cooked to juicy perfection and stacked with lettuce, tomato and red onion on a fresh bun. Messy to eat, it was absolutely one of the best burgers I have ever eaten (and I have eaten a lot of burgers). The meat was slightly sweet and just different enough from beef to make it quite interesting. I definitely recommend it as something you should try at least once! In addition, it came with fries and a giant salt and pepper onion ring that were also quite tasty.
There are only 3 other food items on the Happy Hour menu – Bison Nachos featuring bison chili, Salt and Pepper Onion Rings, and Homemade Chips. Since I do not like and cannot eat cheese (except for mozzarella on a pizza), I skipped the nachos, while I tasted the onion rings (which I also recommend)as part of my BucklandBison Burger.
Of course, since this is a bar review, drinks are quite important. Again, the offerings are limited to 4 mixed drinks, 4 different wines and select beers. I opted for the Hendrick’s Mule, since it was something I had not tried before. Cold and refreshing, it went down smooth. Infused with florals and botanicals, Hendrick’s gin is a premium gin from Scotland that does not have the strong juniper flavor prevalent in London dry gins.
No Limits On Excellent Service:
It Starts And Ends With A Smile
As you know from my previous reviews, I consider the quality of service the single most important aspect in making a bar a good choice to patronize or a place to definitely avoid. It’s the pivotal factor that too many places don’t get right. However, Ted’s Montana Grill in South Windsor excelled in this area. Colleen, who was tending bar during my visit, was friendly and smiling all through my time there, and even spent some time in conversation between prepping the bar for expected crowds for later.
Plus, when the kitchen failed to leave the cheese off my burger as I had requested, she was very apologetic and put my fries and onion rings on a fresh plate, so I could eat them while she took the burger back to get me a new one. It was not a long wait – just long enough to be sure it was cooked correctly (not underdone).
I rarely complain about mistakes if they are properly acknowledged and promptly corrected with a genuine interest in my ultimate satisfaction. When I become perfect and never make a mistake (I’m almost there … NOT), then I will make a much bigger deal out of a mistake. The point is that Colleen corrected it promptly with a sincere apology and no issues at all, which is what keeps customers happy and coming back. And that’s what I consider another essential element of service that can be sadly lacking in too many places.
Although it is part of a chain and has a somewhat limited Happy Hour menu, I still feel that Ted’s Montana Grill at Evergreen Walk in South Windsor deserves my highest rating of ***UNIQUELY RECOMMENDED***! As far as I know, the Buckland Bison Burger and Bison Nachos are something you won’t find on any other Happy Hour menus in this area. The drink menu features at least one premium liquor drink. And, the service ties it all together nicely. (I also recommend taking advantage of the lack of a crowd early, while you can, for a very relaxing Happy Hour.)
You can visit their website at tedsmontanagrill.com to get hours, directions and check out all their menus as well as to find location near you, if the South Windsor location is not convenient for you.
Tell them The Dark Diva sent you!
Discovering Chartreuse Liqueur:
From A Potent Oddity To Bar Essential,
Green Fire Is Spreading
Way back in the Dark Ages, when I was in college, I read about Chartreuse liqueur but could not find in a liquor store in Virginia or D.C. at the time. Over the years I had forgotten about it until several years ago, when I started spotting Chartreuse on a few liquor store shelves. However, since this before I really got into the business of mixology, it was quite an expensive investment (around $30 for 375 ml) for something I wasn’t even sure I would like.
Once I committed to being a mixologist, that all changed. I had to have adventurous taste buds, so I splurged several weeks ago on a Friday and bought a bottle at Joe’s Fine Wine And Spirits in East Windsor, my local go-to package store. I learned a valuable lesson that night – I do like Chartreuse very much, but it is very easy to over indulge as my hangover the next day proved. It’s called green fire for three reasons –- the chartreuse green color, the fact that it’s 110 proof, and the fact that it will consume all sense of reason in an instant.
Made from a recipe of 130 different plants and flowers known only to two Carthusian monks who belong to The Order of Chartreuse (hence the name), this French liqueur is supposedly the only liqueur in the world that is naturally green in color. Used for many years in France primarily as a “digestif,” Chartreuse found its way into modern mixology starting in 1860, when it became the featured ingredient in the “Bijou” cocktail. Today, it appears in more and more recipes as mixologists strive to create unique drinks.
Tasting somewhat like Galliano on steroids, Chartreuse has a very distinctive flavor profile that works surprisingly well with a variety of different liquors and liqueurs. I also enjoy sipping it straight at room temperature, although it’s also supposed to be quite tasty when served cold. Depending on how adventurous your own taste buds are, it might take you several encounters to acquire a taste for it. Or you may want to start with Yellow Chartreuse, which has a lower proof and milder flavor.
Here are some very recent cocktail recipes I’ve created using Green Chartreuse that you may want to try for yourself.
Twisted Green Fire Voodoo Whiskey
The Dark Diva’s gonna put a spell on you this witch’s brew.
In an 8 oz. glass with ice, mix: • 2 oz. Waypoint Spirits Craft Distilled Small Batch Honey Habanero Flavored Whiskey • 0.25 oz. Green Chartreuse Liqueur • 0.25 oz. Mathilde Pêche (Peach) Liqueur
Stir, sip and surrender your will to me! Cheers!
The Martinique Bonfire
It’s going to be a hot time in the West Indies tonight with this concoction! You’ll get the fire down below (remember the Bob Seeger song?)with this simple, but potent drink. In a small snifter, mix: • 2 oz. Bacardi® Gold Rum
• 0.5 oz. Green Chartreuse Liqueur Stir and toast the night when love burns! Cheers!
The Wild French Labrador Rose Martini
Ooh la la! You simply must try this Dark Diva martini concoction! A potent, but delicious blend, it’s as wild and untamed as you want to be!
In a glass with ice, mix: • 1.5 oz. Waypoint Spirits Craft Distilled Labrador Noon Vodka • 1.0 oz. Wild Moon Rose Liqueur • 0.5 0z. Green Chartreuse Liqueur Stir, strain into a chilled martini glass and let your inner wild child bloom! Cheers!
The Dark Diva Uncorks Connecticut Firewater:
Waypoint Spirits Craft Distilled
Small Batch Honey Habanero Flavored Whiskey Comes to the “La-bar-atory”
I first tried this several weeks ago during my tasting and tour at Waypoint Spirits Craft Distillery in Bloomfield, CT. At the time, I knew I had to add this unique whiskey to the ingredient collection in my “la-bar-atory” soon for some very unique cocktail recipes. You can see my video introducing this whiskey and my first recipe using it – The Twisted Hartford, here.
Here are two more recent recipes, you might enjoy:
The Old Scratch Chocolate Twist
AKA New England Dark Fire
Here’s a sweet burning kick right in the taste buds that you’ll come back for again … and again! In an 8 oz. glass with ice, mix: • 1 oz. Waypoint Spirits Craft Distilled Small Batch Honey Habanero Flavored Whiskey • 0.25 oz. Patrón Citrónge Orange Liqueur • 0.5 oz. Trader Vic’s Chocolate Liqueur Stir and then toast your soul good-bye! Cheers!
Queen Cayenne’s Enfield Firewater
A homage to the town in CT I call home, this is one spicy sweet indulgence that will light you up and burn you down! And you’ll be singing, “let it burn!” In an 8 oz. glass with ice, mix: • 1 oz. Waypoint Spirits Craft Distilled Small Batch Honey Habanero Flavored Whiskey • 0.5 oz. Patrón Citrónge Orange Liqueur • 0.25 oz. Extra Dry Vermouth • 0.25 oz. Wild Moon Lime Liqueur • 4-6 Drops Angostura Bitters Stir and then burn, baby, burn! Cheers!
Hope you’re staying cool because Connecticut is under a heat advisory at the moment! We’ve already exceeded our average number of days with a temperature of 90°F or better and still have the rest of August and September left to go. And while it’s nice to stay in the AC with a cool cocktail when you can, The Dark Diva had to suffer the heat (I’m kidding because I had the AC in my car going full blast) and follow the CT Spirits Trail to another adventure.
This time the trail took me out in the country and back in time to a quintessential American tradition — sipping moonshine on the farm. To be precise, I was tasting the different varieties of Full Moonshine which is produced (legally) by Bill and Lynne Olson at Hickory Ledges Farm & Distillery. Located in the countryside of Canton, CT, Hickory Ledges Farm is the picturesque New England farm and makes for a leisurely Sunday afternoon destination.
The Moonshine Mystique
It’s been romanticized. It’s been criticized. It’s been the subject of countless stories, movies, songs and more. It’s legend. And it’s a fact of life in Appalachia. But what is it really? Moonshine is the name used to denote unaged, generally clear and fairly potent whiskey distilled from corn. The name itself is most probably connected to the fact that it was usually made illegally, to keep from paying taxes on it, and often under cover of night to avoid being caught and going to jail. Depending on where you live, it’s also known as white lightning, mountain dew or hooch.
The roots of this attempt to avoid taxes on farmer-made whiskey can be traced back to the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791 when the federal government first tried to tax it. Originally brought to this country by the early Scots-Irish settlers, moonshine became the best way to make money from their corn crops. Converted to whiskey, the corn was more valuable and easier to transport across the mountains. So, the tax was considered an unfair burden.
As a result, the whole concept of moonshine as an illegal, but popular, tradition became engrained in the American psyche, especially in the hills of Appalachia. This includes southwestern Virginia where I was raised. I lived near moonshine counties like Floyd County and Franklin County, which at one time was purported to be the “Moonshine Capital of the East Coast”. What I learned back then was that, in general, it was a good idea to avoid “moonshine” if you didn’t know who made it. In addition to being illegal, some of it was made by unscrupulous people who took shortcuts like using old car radiators for condensers, which could contaminate it with anything from anti-freeze to lead. Drinking “bad” moonshine could cause serious health issues, even blindness and death,
Plus, even if you knew it didn’t have any contaminants in it, you couldn’t always count on the quality. On rare occasion, I’ve had some that was incredibly smooth albeit potent, but I’ve also tasted some that started to dissolve the paper cup I was drinking it from! It would have been good for cleaning cement, stripping paint and fueling planes. Most ‘shine fell into the latter category.
A Modern Respect for An Ancient Craft
Fortunately, moonshine can be legally made today as evidenced by the existence of a number of moonshine distilleries in CT and around the country. Of course, based on my experience with moonshine, I have to admit that I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I made my way to Hickory Ledges Farm & Distillery for the Sunday tasting.
The rustic tasting room set the perfect ambiance for tasting moonshine. Completely opened up to the outside along the entrance porch, it was actually quite comfortable and inviting. It was crowded when I arrived, with a large group at a table big table and several couples at the bar. Behind the bar, Lynne Olson and her assistant Jenn were busy serving tastes of Full Moonshine, smiles and pleasant conversation. (Again, I was truly impressed by the enthusiasm and patience of the folks serving, as well as the friendliness of the people on my side of the bar.)
I learned in a very short time that Full Moonshine sets an impressive standard for smoothness and drinkability. Demonstrating the utmost respect for the art of making moonshine, they use genuine New England ingredients (many from their own farm) in crafting each variety in small batches and bottling it in traditional Mason jars. You can honestly taste the pride and effort that goes into their whiskey.
Full Moonshine Apple Pie
Lynne started my tasting experience off with their Apple Pie moonshine. I was simply amazed at how much it really tasted like homemade apple pie! It was easy drinking with the incredible flavor of the fresh pressed cider (produced on the farm as well) and spices they use in making it. Not normally a big fan of apple flavored alcohol, I was hooked enough to try it in an Apple Pie Martini, which led to my buying a jar of it to bring home. I’m sure it will be a fave for concocting drink recipes this fall.
Full Moonshine Cranberry
Anything with cranberry can be difficult to get just right. More often than not, it ends up being too tart or too sweet. Not in this case. Made with native cranberries, their Full Moonshine Cranberry struck an ideal balance for a refreshingly smooth taste I can imagine in a lot of recipes.
Full Moonshine Pete’s Maple 80
Next up for tasting was the Full Moonshine Pete’s Maple 80 — the 80 refers to the proof which is double that of both the Cranberry and Apple Pie. Made with genuine Vermont maple syrup, this is Lynne Olson’s personal favorite. While it was as smooth as the others, I wasn’t as enamored with it. However, that is probably more a function of the fact that I have a love-hate relationship with maple flavor. I love maple syrup (on my pancakes) and maple-cured bacon, but I dislike the taste in most anything else. That said, it was well done in Pete’s Maple 80 and I would recommend it to anyone who likes maple.
Full Moonshine Circa 1797
This is the real deal – genuine, pure corn whiskey made with corn and spring water. Named for the year Bill Olson’s ancestor, Uriah Case, was granted a license to distill whiskey, it’s a fitting choice to represent the family tradition. This was also a favorite of mine for its smoothness, very little burn at the end and versatility. I also tried it in Lynne’s version of a Bloody Mary and was hooked. Needless to say, I bought a jar of it, too. (You’ll also find a recipe using it later in this blog.)
It should come as no surprise that Full Moonshine Hickory Ledges Farm & Distillery has earned my highest rating of ***UNIQUELY RECOMMENDED*** due to their friendly, welcoming attitude, great whiskey, rustic ambiance that fits the product and the beautiful location in the country. Go now and go back in the fall to enjoy the foliage. They are open with free tastings on Sundays only from Noon – 5 PM. You can find out more about them on their web site www.fullmoonshine.com. Tell them the The Dark Diva sent you!
Beat The Heat With My
Full Moonshine Wild Lavender Tea
From my CT Garden Party Cocktail Collection, this quite cool & tasty concoction is made completely with alcohols distilled in CT! Mix the following in an 8 oz. glass with ice:
• 1 oz. Full Moonshine Circa 1797 • 0.5 oz. Wild Moon Lavender Liqueur
•4 oz. Pure Leaf Unsweetened Black Tea
• Splash of Wild Moon Lime Liqueur
The Battle Of The Gins Winner
In a close contest, Waypoint Spirits Wintonbury Gin of Bloomfield, CT barely edged out Hendrick’s Gin of Scotland as the best choice for use in my Cool As A Cuke Sin & Tonic. Both gins are infused with botanical and floral elements, but I found that Wintonbury added just the right touch of elements to the overall flavor profile. Try it yourself and let me know if you agree … or not.
See The Dark Diva Take The Vodka Challenge
If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to check out my Vodka Tasting Video on The Dark Diva You Tube Channel. It’s the first video I’ve done in a while and is also the first to feature more of me than my hands. In it I give my tasting impressions of 4 different vodkas. View it here.
Thanks for checking out this edition of my Fresh & Twisted Blog. Please leave your comments to let me know how I’m doing. Also, please share with friends … and the WORLD!