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!

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!