Share The Holiday Spirit(s) With Create-Your-Own Spirits of Connecticut Gift Sets

November 27, 2018

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.

Suggested Contents:

• 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.)

RECIPE

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!

Suggested Contents:

• 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.)

RECIPE:

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)

RECIPES:

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 Sampler Gift 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!

 

 

The Dark Diva’s Holiday Social & Survival Guide Part 3: Gifts For Drink Lovers Made Easy, Fun & Unique

November 20, 2018

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

Kelly, our tour & spirit guide at Hartford Flavor Company in Hartford describing the various liqueurs we are about to sample!

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

The Tasting Bar of Wild Moon(R) Liqueurs that’s part of the tour at Hartford Flavor Company.

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).

Melissa, our bartender/spirit guide, pours samples for guests at the Tasting Bar of Waypoint Spirits in Bloomfield, CT!

I have visited and reviewed two of these craft distillers in the greater Hartford area, which I can personally recommend: Hartford Flavor Company in Hartford and Waypoint Spirits in Bloomfield. Both offer affordable Saturday and Sunday afternoon tours

Connor was our enthusiastic and knowledgeable tour guide at Waypoint Spirits.

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

Grant’s Flirtini

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:

Bloomfield

The Republic Gastropub

Manchester

Bistro On Main
Plaza Azteca

South Windsor

Burtons Bar & Grill
Mill On The River
Red Heat Tavern
Ted’s Montana Grill

West Hartford

Blue Elephant Trail
Grant’s Restaurant & Bar
Max’s Oyster Bar
Zohara Mediterranean Kitchen

 

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.

Waypoint Spirits

Waypoint Spirits Craft Distilled Honey Habanero Flavored Whiskey

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.

Barware

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!

Learn more about my custom-crafted cocktails for events and gifts here. You can also email me: MissBri@thedarkdivarules.com.

Act now! Don’t wait, because I expect to get booked out fast!

Hopefully, you’ve found some ideas here that will make your holiday gift-giving experience easy and fun!

Hope you have a wonderfully enjoyable and safe holiday season!

Don’t Make A Sad Mistake! Check Out These Friday Happy Hour Reviews Before Making Plans for Tomorrow … Plus The Queen Puts A Sizzlin’ Twist On Hot Apple Pie … And The Diva Jazzes Up Royal Street!

August 20, 2018

As part of our new blog format, here’s part two of this week’s blog to get you primed for the weekend.

Give Your Happy Hour Plans A Fresh Twist This Friday

Get out of the usual Friday Happy Hour rut and try someplace new tomorrow. Check out my past reviews for recommendations!

Max’s Oyster Bar in West Hartford

Ted’s Montana Grill in South Windsor

Mill On the River in South Windsor

Burtons Grill & Bar in South Windsor

The Republic in Bloomfield

The Cook and The Bear in West Hartford

Queen Cayenne’s “RED🔥HOT” Apple Pie Martini

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!

 

Have a great weekend!

The Republic In Bloomfield Earns Strong Happy Hour Allegiances … Plus The Queen Gets Mean … And Enjoy An Early Taste Of Autumn, Dark Diva Style!

September 11, 2018

A Moment To Reflect

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.

Meet Mark, an exceptional bartender who has been with The Republic since it opened. He made me feel welcome from the moment I sat down at the bar.

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.

A very large Wintonbury Gin & Tonic for only $5. An excellent deal!

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.

***UNIQUELY RECOMMENDED***

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!

Burtons Grill Raises The Bar For Friday Happy Hour In South Windsor … Inspiration Strikes For A Clearly Different Cosmo … And Queen Cayenne Lights You Up With A Twisted Tabasco® ‘Tini!

September 4. 2018

Well, meteorological fall may have begun, but we’re in the midst of another summer heatwave here in CT! This is ridiculous! I’m ready for a touch of fall chill!!! In the interim, I have some excellent ways to beat the heat starting with a new Friday (or any other day) Happy Hour destination – Burtons Grill & Barat Evergreen Walkin South Windsor!

Managing Expectations Is Easy,
If You Consistently Exceed Them!

While I have so far found a lot to like about all the bars/happy hours I’ve visited, Burtons definitely raised the bar on my future expectations, which will create a challenge for the next stops on my list. Admittedly, having never been there before, I had no idea what to expect when I visited Burtons this past Friday. I soon learned to expect a lot, starting with the first server I encountered.

Having parked in the lot behind Burtons, I walked around to the side of the patio where a server immediately asked if I was going to bar and, when I said yes, opened the door for me as if were instinctive. Inside, the bar appearance had a nice, classic contemporary vibe with a mix of wood, granite and glass. Choosing an empty seat at the closest corner, I was quickly greeted by Fabian, one of the two bartenders on duty, who presented me with several menus (drink specials and the main menu)to peruse. Here I encountered my first big surprise!

Burtons White Cosmo $5 Happy Hour Special! Yes, that’s my purple lipstick on the rim. 🙂

Online, the Happy Hour drink menu seems a bit limited with regards to mixed drinks as it only specified $5 premium cocktails with a $2 surcharge for martinis and manhattans. What I found in person was the backside of that menu, which featured 6 different specialty cocktails – 3 Mules, an Old Fashion, a White Cosmo, and a Sangria. Now, I was quite intrigued by the White Cosmo, so I ordered it to begin. A mix of New Amsterdam vodka, Tuaca, white cranberry juice and lime syrup, it was a bit tart to start, but quickly grew on me. (I was surprised to see it used Tuaca, an Italian liqueur I am quite fond of after being introduced to it by ex’s Sicilian uncle. Plus, it spurred memories of the Winterberry Cosmo I had at Bonefish Grill several years ago.) It was so good, it inspired me to create The Twisted Cosmo Blanco (recipe can be found later in this post).

Food For Thought And Taste …

Perfectly prepared and presented, the Seared Tuna Sashimi was absolutely delish!

On the online menu, it simply says ask about their ½ price shareables. What that means is that their appetizers are half off during Happy Hour. It’s a decent selection which is sure to offer something to most people. For me, the Seared Tuna Sashimipiqued my interest, so I chose it for round one. When Fabianasked me if wanted chopsticks, that sparked a short, humorous discussion about learning how to eat with them. From the presentation to the last bite, it was a fabulous dish that I would order again in a heartbeat. (I even managed to eat it all using chopsticks with only one minor embarrassment when a piece of tuna fell out of the chopsticks before it got to my mouth … haha!)

Round Two Was A Mixed Bag But Still Good!

After finishing my White Cosmo and Seared Tuna Sashimi, I was eager to check out more of their offerings. The couple to my right had ordered the Point Judith Calamari, which looked tasty and which they recommended as calamari connoisseurs (which my ex and I sued to be as well), so I decided to try it with an Old Fashion (my first time trying one). At this point, Caleb was tending to my needs because he and Fabian were tag teaming in perfect harmony serving guests at the bar in addition to handling restaurant drink orders at the service bar. Both bartenders delivered flawless service from start to finish.

My first, but not my last, Old Fashion!

When my Point Judith Calamari arrived, I found it to be a bit crispier than I prefer. That is not a knock on it, but simply an acknowledgement that we all have different tastes. The couple who recommended it really liked it and it was not bad at all. It’s just that I prefer mine fried just a little lighter. In any case, they were tasty and not the least bit greasy. The Old Fashion was quite interesting because it was something new for me, but quite enjoyable and worth trying!

High Marks For Friendliness …
On Both Sides Of The Bar!

As followers of my blog know, I place a very high premium on attitude, especially behind the bar. At the same time, however, a friendly crowd on my side of the bar also speaks volumes about the quality of any establishment. I wound up sitting between two couples who were quite friendly and enjoyable to converse with during my time there. One couple professed to be regulars, while the other couple were certainly no strangers to the place. Their glowing remarks along with my own experience made it easy to see why this could become a regular Happy Hour spot for me. Simply put, you rarely find bad people at good happy hours or vice versa.

***UNIQUELY RECOMMENDED***

With 15 locations along the East Coast, Burtons may be a chain, but it’s atypical. It sets an upscale standard without being stuffy or over impressed with itself, as evidenced by the friendly attitude of the servers, bartenders and patrons. That in and of itself is worthy of my ***UNIQUELY RECOMMENDED***rating. At the same time, the seasonal drink specials and food options set a very high standard for enjoyable quality and value!

Check out their menus, hours and more at burtonsgrill.com.

Tell them The Dark Diva sent you!

Burtons’ White Cosmo Inspired
A Clearly Different Dark Diva Martini –
The Twisted Cosmo Blanco

It’s Maggie McFly’s Mexican Cosmo meets Burtons White Cosmo with a Dark Diva twist in The Twisted Cosmo Blanco! Party all night long, whether you should or not, with this irresistible concoction!

In a glass with ice, combine:
• 1.0 oz. Jose Cuervo Especial® Blue Agave Silver Tequila
• 0.5 oz. Patrón Citron Extra Fine Lime Liqueur
• 0.25 oz. Patrón Citron Extra Fine Orange Liqueur
• 3.0 oz. Ocean Spray® White Cranberry Juice
Stir, pour into a chilled martini glass, and toast a total loss of inhibitions!!!! Cheers!

Queen Cayenne Will Light You Up
And Burn You Down –
Welcome To Queen Cayenne’s Red-Hot Gator Club

As a tribute to #Tabasco and #NCISNOLA, 2 of my faves, my alter ego came up with this hot, not for the faint, concoction — Queen Cayenne’s Avery Island “Fire-tini” AKA A Twisted TabascoⓇ‘Tini! Nobody brings the heat like Queen Cayenne!

In a glass with ice, combine:
1.5 oz. Sazerac® Rye Straight Rye Whiskey
0.5 oz. Chartreuse Liqueur
0.5 oz. Mathilde Pêche (Peach) Liqueur
4 dashes Tabasco® Pepper Sauce

Stir, pour into a chilled martini glass, and toast the fire within! Cheers!

Hope you enjoyed this edition of Miss Bri’s Fresh & Twisted Blog.
Thanks fore checking it out.
Please let us know what you think!

 

 

In This Week’s Post … A Bison Bar Stands Out From The Herd in South Windsor … Green Fire Heats Up In Popularity … The Dark Diva Gets Fired Up For A Hot CT Whiskey … And More!

August 19, 2018

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

The exterior of Ted’s Montana Grill at Evergreen Walk in South Windsor, CT.

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

A view at ted’s Montana Grill, including the bison head. (Unfortunately, my phone camera had a delay glitch so that the picture didn’t take until I was moving the phone. THIS WAS BEFORE I HAD MY FIRST DRINK!)

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.

Ted’s Montana Grill Happy Hour menu.

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.

***UNIQUELY RECOMMENDED***

Side view of Ted’s Montana Grill from the rear parking lot. There’s an outdoor seating area along the walk.

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.

My bottle of Green Chartreuse has been emptying rather rapidly!

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”

Waypoint Spirits Craft Distilled Honey Habanero Flavored Whiskey

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!

Don’t Miss These Dark Diva Videos From Last Week:

TDDR (The Dark Diva Rules)
National Rum Day Video 8 16 18

TDDR (The Dark Diva Rules)
Gin Comparison Video 8 16 18

 

Well that does it for this week’s blog post. Thanks for checking it out!
As always, we welcome your comments, questions and suggestions (including places you’d like The Dark Diva to review).

Have a Great Week!

Discovering Connecticut’s Craft Distillers Part 3: Following the CT Spirits Trail Out in the Country And Back in Time To Full Moonshine Hickory Ledges Farm & Distillery!

August 7, 2018

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.

Full Moonshine Hickory Ledges Farm & Distillery sits out in the Canton, CT countryside at 183 Bahre Corner Road.

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.

A moonshine still in an undisclosed location. These stills come in a variety of sizes and types, usually with a look of cobbled together parts, which they often are.

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

This rustic building is where the tasting room is located. The doors open all the way across to let people and the breeze in.

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.

This is Jenn, who was helping Lynne behind the bar. She was quite engaging as she dispensed tastes of Full Moonshine and smiles with equal enthusiasm!

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.)

Lynne Olson (Left) and her husband, Bill (Right) are the very nice folks who own Hickory Ledges Farm & Distillery. They are carrying on a tradition from Bills’s side of the family that dates back to 1797.

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

The Full Moonshine Line – Apple Pie (40 Proof), Cranberry (40 Proof), Pet’s Maple 80 (80 proof) and Circa 1797 (80 Proof). They are well worth a trip for the FREE tasting, the conversation and the ambiance!

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

These are the 2 I bought for use in making some new recipes. They came with a nice souvenir tote.

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.)

***UNIQUELY RECOMMENDED***

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:

A refreshing way to cool off in CT style!

• 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

Cheers!

 

The Battle Of The Gins Winner

A great choice to beat the heat!

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

See The Dark Diva give my taste impressions of these 4 vodkas!

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!

Discovering Connecticut’s Craft Distillers: Hitting the CT Spirits Trail at the Home of Wild Moon Liqueurs

July 22, 2018

The CT Spirits Trail Passport

Hope you’ve had an enjoyable weekend so far, despite the return of humid weather to the Nutmeg State. As for myself, I spent a lovely afternoon on Saturday making my first stop on the CT Spirits Trail (www.ctspiritstrail.com) at Hartford Flavor Company (www.hartfordflavor.com), crafters of Wild Moon all-natural botanical liqueurs. It is well worth a visit!

All 7 Wild Moon Liqueurs (Thanks to Randy for lining them up for this shot.)

Having been introduced to Wild Moon Lime liqueur upon the recommendation of a staff member at Table & Vine in West Springfield, MA during a visit in early June, I found it to be a valuable addition to my la-bar-atory. It ended up being a key ingredient in my popular Twisted Purple Backstabber martini as well as a perfect additive to several other recipes. In fact, it was so good I opted to try the Wild Moon Cranberry Liqueur. Again, it has proven to be an ideal addition to a number of recipes. So, I was quite interested in visiting them and sampling the rest of their line.

WILD ABOUT WILD MOON

The bar in Diana’s Lair

Located in the back of 30 Arbor Street (Suite #107) in Hartford, it’s easily identified by a sign and an entrance deck. Upon entering, there is a small vestibule which opens into a very nice bar area known as Diana’s Lair (you’ll understand the naming once you’ve done the tour). You’ll find a full range of souvenirs (T-shirts, signs, glassware, etc,) for sale as well the Wild Moon Liqueurs themselves.

Kelly, our engaging tour guide/hostess, was a knowledgable and enthusiastic brand ambassador!

After a short wait, the tour began. There were three of us on this tour (myself and a lovely couple, Randy and Karen, from western CT who were in town for the jazz festival). Kelly, our guide, was very friendly and enthusiastic about the company and its products as she gave us a short history of the company and even explained the logo. (I don’t want to spoil the fun, so you’ll have to take the tour to find out the details.)

Botanicals are placed in mesh bags like this which are then place in barrels with the alcohol base to create the Wild Moon liqueur infusions.

The key point is that Lelaneia, the founder, started the company to provide a gluten-free option so that she and others could enjoy cocktails. (Since most spirits are distilled from grains, gluten can certainly be an issue. This is why the alcohol used as a base for these liqueurs is imported from the Netherlands – the supplier is the only place that will certify the alcohol is gluten-free.) Lelaneia also made the commitment to use all-natural, locally sourced ingredients (aside from the base) so that the liqueurs truly represent the artisanal spirit (no pun intended). In a process that is as much art as it is science, each batch of each liqueur is carefully crafted to meet Lelaneia’s exacting standards.

A MATTER OF TASTE

With each sample, Kelly would give us a description and some background. Then we would discuss our own taste perceptions, ask questions, etc. It was a very informal and comfortable environment.

The tasting portion of our tour was most interesting as Kelly would explain how each liqueur was made and offer some insights before serving us the samples. The taste of each one was intriguing and a subject for discussion among all of us (Kelly, Randy, Karen and myself) as to how we interpreted the flavors and what drinks or food recipes they might work well in.

• Wild Moon Lime, which I use frequently, is both tart and sweet for a surprisingly balanced appeal.

• Wild Moon Cranberry, seasonally available and another one I use, mellows the sharp cranberry tanginess just enough for full enjoyment.

• Wild Moon Cucumber struck me right away with its incredibly natural taste of cool, crisp cucumber. (It’s also featured in a special drink recipe at the end of this blog.)

• Wild Moon Rose was totally surprising in its complexity and intriguing character. I have a few recipes in mind for it.

• Wild Moon Lavender is another complex variety with a mix of herbal and floral influences that I am experimenting with at the moment.

• Wild Moon Birch has more of a masculine, earthiness to it which make it a natural pairing for a whiskey such as bourbon or even Irish whiskey.

• Wild Moon Chai Spice is indeed alive with the warm glow of cinnamon and other spices. It should be perfect for any fall or winter warmer cocktail as well as adding a nice touch to coffee or tea.

At the end of the tour, we each got to pick a cocktail from a menu of drinks made using a Wild Moon Liqueur as a key ingredient. My choice was the Rose Moon Margarita, which was quite tasty (except that even the very limited amount of “margarita mix” used in it managed to give me heartburn later).

**UNIQUELY RECOMMENDED**

The Sampler pack features six 100ml bottles of Wild Moon Liqueurs (all except Cranberry).

Hartford Flavor Company has earned my **Uniquely Recommended** rating which means it’s an experience that’s definitely worth your time, with excellent craft liqueurs, an inviting atmosphere and enthusiastic staff. I also recommend taking advantage of the opportunity to buy Wild Moon Liqueurs while you’re there. (I bought a sampler pack to experiment with in my recipes.) They’re open for tours and tastings on Fridays 4 pm – 7 pm, Saturdays 1 pm – 6 pm and Sundays 2 pm – 5 pm. The cost is $10 per person, which includes the tour, tastings and a cocktail. (I considered it a bargain.)

You can also find Wild Moon Liqueurs at many local package stores in CT, MA and more, including Table & Vine in West Springfield, MA and my local go-to package store, Joe’s Fine Wine & Spirits in East Windsor, CT.

Keep up with Miss Bri’s Fresh & Twisted Blog as we work our way around the state with reviews at each stop on the CT Spirits Trail.

A BEAT THE HEAT RECIPE

The Dark Diva’s “Cool As A Cuke Sin & Tonic”
AKA The Twisted Chiller

We found that Wild Moon mixes 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.)

Ignore the strainer. It was leftover from a martini experiment earlier.

In an 8 oz. glass with ice, combine the following:

1 oz.Tanqueray London Dry 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.

Thanks for checking out this edition. Please let us know what you think!

Another Successful Party Sampling Including An Adventure In A Glass

Sunday July 15, 2018

Greetings from The Dark Diva,

Hope you’re enjoying your weekend! It was very busy this past week as we were deciding on the recipes and collecting the ingredients for bringing samples to another party on Saturday. We had a great time and the recipe samples were a big hit.

The hostess messaged me earlier today to say, “Thanks for coming …. Dark Diva! Your concoctions were delicious and so fun and added a special som’in som’in to the festivities!”

And a party guest posted today that, “The one I tasted was yummy.”

I also received a lot of compliments on the different recipes that folks tried (usually more than one), so I consider it a very successful sampling.

If you want to try the recipes at home, here is Saturday’s sampling menu:

The Purple Lace Martini

Seductive, sweet and oh sooo devilishly delightful! You simply must throw caution to the wind and indulge your wildest fantasies with this forbidden concoction!

• 1 oz. Skyy Infusions®
Vanilla Bean Vodka
• 0.25 oz. Mathilde Orange
X.O. Liqueur
• 3 oz. POM Wonderful®
   Pomegranate Blueberry Juice

Mix ingredients together with ice, strain into a chilled martini glass and kiss your inhibitions good-bye! (Please note: I assume no responsibility for STD, children or anything else that may result!)

Let the games begin!


Adventure In A Glass:
Boston Orient Blood River Punch Martini

More than just a martini, the Dark Diva’s latest mysterious concoction is a wild adventure in a glass. Set sail from Boston aboard the Boston Orient, a rust-bucket tramp steamer, on a quest with 1930’s style intrigue as a colorful cast of characters gathers at the Blood River Plantation on the southern coast of unexplored Papua New Guinea to
search for a lost gold mine.

Here, you will find One-eyed Jack Gamble, a grizzled bear of a man who will ask you why you’ve come. You must whisper three words correctly and precisely or you will be sent on your way to fend for yourself amid the hostile faces outside. “Le fouet noir.” French for The Black Whip, it gains you an audience with The Dark Diva, queen of the island’s secrets. She mixes a secret concoction and pours it into a glass with the warning that you have to pass the test of drinking only one and remaining sober. Succeed and you may continue your quest. Fail, and you may end up a snack for a monster crocodile or joining cannibals for dinner … as the main course.

• 1 oz. Malibu® Caribbean Rum
with Coconut Liqueur
• 0.5 oz. Jose Cuervo Especial®
Silver Agave Tequila
• 0.5 oz. Tangueray® London Dry Gin
• 0.25 oz. Patrón Citrónge®
  Extra Fine Mango Liqueur
• 0.25 oz. Leroux Crème de Banana Liqueur
• A Splash of DeKuyper® Blue Curacao Liqueur
• 4 oz. Ocean Spray
®Diet Cran-Pineapple™ Juice

Mix ingredients together with ice, strain into a chilled martini glass and toast to surviving (hopefully) the perils of ruthless enemy agents, cutthroat pirates, murderous crooks, head-hunting cannibals, deadly animals, brutal heat, severe weather and treacherous terrain.

Let the adventure begin! Bon chance!

The Wicked Southern Grillside Tea
AKA Twisted BBQ Juice

Cool, refreshing, fiery and surprisingly lethal, it may make you decide to stay by the grill all summer long!!! But be careful, because we’re playing with fire! Life’s too short for boring drinks!!!

• 1 oz. Maker’s Mark®
Kentucky Straight
Bourbon Whiskey
  (A good Southern tradition)
• 0.5 oz. Marie Brizard No. 18   Watermelon Liqueur
(A summer refresher)
• 0.25 oz. Wild Moon®Lime Liqueur (Made in Hartford for a “wicked” touch)
• 4 oz. Pure Leaf
®Unsweetened Black Tea (Real Brewed Tea) (Good stuff!)
• 3 drops of Tabasco®Sauce (Southern heat with a twist)

Mix ingredients with ice in an 8 oz. glass.

Go ahead and light your fire!

The Miss Lucy – Sweet & Sassy

A tribute to the newest addition to my adopted Bushey family, this drink pays homage to both sides of her nature and serves as a warning to her future romantic interests (years from now).

• 1 oz. Bacardi Gold Rum
(Aged to sweet perfection, it represents her long-
awaited arrival.)
• 1 oz. Mathilde Orange X.O. Liqueur
(As warm and infectious as her smile, but it sneaks up on you.)
• 0.5 oz. Leroux Crème de Banana Liqueur
(There’s bit of monkey business in her smile.)
• 0.25 oz. Galliano L’autentico Liqueur
(For the Italian in her, sweet and intriguing,)
• 0.25 oz. Chambord Raspberry Liqueur
(Sweet as a hug, but there’s always an eye for mischief.)
• 4 oz. Pineapple Juice
(It’s a bright smile with a tart twinkle that will make any day better.)
• 2 long splashes Wild Moon®Cranberry Liqueur
(Sassy like a New England girl should be.)

Mix ingredients together, pour over ice.

Toast Miss Lucy and enjoy!

The Royal Purple Diva Martini

This drink’s irresistibly enticing flavor is the result of a perfect balancing in the intertwining of crisp pear warmed by smooth vodka with the tangy sweetness of citrus liqueur and the refreshing tartness of pomegranate juice. To say it’s simply delicious is an understatement. It’s a taste of nirvana in a glass.

• 1 oz.Skyy Infusions® Bartlett Pear Vodka
• 0.25 oz. Patrón Citrónge®Orange Liqueur
• 3 oz. Of POM Wonderful®Pomegranate Juice

Combine the above elements in a glass with ice, stir well, pour into a chilled martini glass and enjoy.

Taste dark side heaven!