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!

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!

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 2: Following The CT Spirits Trail To Waypoint Spirits!

July 30, 2018

Well I hope you had a lovely final weekend in July. Mine was very busy celebrating a dear friend’s birthday on Friday and spending a lovely Saturday afternoon entertaining my son and his girlfriend who were visiting from Florida. Both occasions gave me an opportunity to test some new cocktail recipes as well as some old faves.

Love my convertible!

However, after all the excitement of Friday and Saturday, I found myself with some time on Sunday to check out another local craft distillery on the CT Spirits Trail  – Waypoint Spirits. So late that afternoon, I put the top down on my convertible (what else would the Dark Diva drive) and cruised through the countryside to a somewhat non-descript building in an industrial park in Bloomfield, CT where Waypoint Spirits makes its home.

Big Space, Intimate Atmosphere

Melissa (L), our bartender/spirit guide, was very engaging and enthusiastic. The 3 delightful ladies on the right (Lainey, Tatiana and Luz) helped make this a fun experience!

Inside, it’s a large space that was made to feel more welcoming and intimate by the friendly staff. I was immediately greeted by Melissa, the bartender/spirits guide, who set the tone for a fun, relaxed afternoon of getting to know Waypoint and its impressive product line. At the bar I was fortunate enough to encounter a party of 3 friends (Lainey, Tatiana and Luz) who had come to celebrate Lainey’s birthday. There’s something about the informality of a small group that made it easy for us to get acquainted. Together, we enjoyed discussing the merits of each spirit we tried as well as possible cocktail recipes and life in general.

Melissa proved to be a very knowledgeable and engaging guide as she gave us a very nice introduction to each product before we sampled it and deftly answered all the questions we threw at her. (So far, I have been extremely impressed with the commitment and genuine brand enthusiasm I’ve encountered among the part-time tasting and tour guides at both Waypoint Spirits and Hartford Flavor Company.)

Raising The Bar At the Bar:
Something for Virtually Every Taste

I liked Labrador Noon Vodka enough to buy a bottle for my la-bar-atory!

We started our tasting with Labrador Noon Vodka, Waypoint’s very first product introduction. I found it to be light, smooth and easily drinkable without the typical “alcohol burn” going down. The only sensation was a nice warmth in the chest. In fact, I liked it so much I bought a bottle to experiment with at home, especially in recipes with Wild Moon Liqueurs. (This says a lot since I am not normally a huge un-flavored vodka fan.)

Next, we tried their Wintonbury Gin, which was a surprisingly pleasant departure from the typical heavy juniper flavor of traditional London dry gins. Wintonbury is lighter and more refreshing with an infusion of locally sourced botanical and floral elements. (It is more in the mold of Hendrick’s Gin from Scotland, which is an increasingly popular alternative to the London Dry gins, but at a much higher price point than the Wintonbury Gin). I am anxious to add it to my la-bar-atory and see what kind of intriguing martini recipes I can create.

For our third sampling, Melissa served us Man Overboard Spiced Rum. Now, I will confess that I am somewhat indifferent to spiced rum and normally never buy it. I may have to re-think that position after trying this one. It is lighter in color and taste than most spiced rums, which I find makes it more drinkable for me. (Of course, individual taste is highly subjective and what tempts one palate might repulse another.)

They have a surprisingly large selection to choose from and have several award winners which are displayed on the top shelf (naturally).

After the spiced rum, we moved to tasting samples of special and small batch whiskies. Their special whiskies are very limited-production experimental concoctions, while the small batch is part of their regular line, but it’s done in small batches because of production limitations. First up was a pumpkin spice Special Batch Whiskey, which I found interesting. To my tastes, it was a little harsh for drinking straight. I’d suggest trying it on the rocks with water, mixed with coffee or Irish Cream liqueur.

Our second whiskey sampling was a honey habanero Small Batch Whiskey that was my favorite (I love spicy things). Using honey that’s locally sourced and habanero peppers grown in their own little garden outside, they gave this whiskey a complex blend of sweet heat that tingles the taste buds without setting your mouth on fire. This one definitely piqued my interest for creating some adventurous recipes.

For a final whiskey tasting, Melissa served us a maple bacon bourbon Special Batch Whiskey. It was actually smoother than I expected, since bacon flavoring and scents can sometimes be overpowering with an aroma more like rancid grease. Here the bacon flavor was suitably subtle as it blended perfectly with the maple. While I found it interesting, maple bacon isn’t that high on my list of favorite flavors, especially for whiskey, although I could see it being popular with men.

Spicy XIII is Bloody Diva style vodka with everything but the juice!

Once we had sampled the various whiskies, we moved on to a unique vodka, Waypoint Labrador Noon Spicy XIII. Aptly named, it’s infused with 13 different ingredients that give it all the spicy kick of a Bloody Mary or even a Bloody Diva. Just add tomato juice, V8 or Mott’s Clamato juice (for a Bloody Caesar). Definitely not for the timid or those who have a low tolerance for spice. However, it has an irresistible appeal for yours truly.

The last sampling on our list was reserved for a recent addition to their product line – a coffee liqueur made with cold-brewed coffee made with Kenyan beans from a local roaster and combined with Labrador Noon Vodka. It was quite smooth and certainly an exciting possibility for combining with a number of different ingredients for the fall and holiday season.

In addition to the individual tastings, we were offered two different cocktails to try. The first one I tried was a punch made with Man Overboard Spiced Rum and a mixed bag of fruit juices (apparently it depends on what they have on hand at the time) that was quite tasty. Nothing extraordinary, but still enjoyable.

The second proved to be far more surprising (in a good way). It was a blend of Labrador Noon Vodka, lemonade, fresh strawberries and basil that was quite refreshing and smooth. I could have easily spent the afternoon sipping several of those.

Inside The Distillery:
A First Hand Look At Hand Crafting Liquors

Connor, our tour guide, did a great job of explaining everything as he guided through the process of hand crafting the various spirits.

Afterwards, Connor (John Taylor’s nephew) took us on a tour of the distillery itself. (Just like Melissa, Connor was very nice, patient in the extreme and a quite knowledgeable brand ambassador as he explained all aspects of the operation.) We entered a very large, open warehouse space which was partially filled with two large pot stills, a column still, fermentation tanks and lots of pipes and tubing. Connor walked us through the process of making the alcohol base, from wheat grown on a farm in Windsor, CT, and separating the ethanol (the drinkable alcohol) from the methanol and isopropyl alcohols (which they use to clean their equipment).

This is where Wintonbury Gin is infused with botanical and floral elements.

It is quite an operation and you can easily see that every product is truly hand crafted, from the carbon filtering of Labrador Noon Vodka hundreds of times to the way botanical and floral elements are infused to make Wintonbury Gin to the barrels where the special and small batch whiskies are aged. It also extends to the bottling, labeling and packing of each liquor.

Connor takes a lot of pride in helping craft Waypoint Spirits!

I came away with a deep appreciation of the spirit (pun only slightly intended) that drives craft distillers in our state. It’s apparently very much a labor of love, which is how I feel about The Dark Diva Rules, and a continuing effort to learn and improve. And there will be growing pains as well as a bit of a learning curve. I’m sure what I tasted on Sunday was a far cry from what they first produced in 2015. And I’m sure they’ll keep on tweaking formulas and coming up with new ideas.

While I am a big proponent for supporting the craft distilleries in Connecticut, I was also reminded that being craft distilled here doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good. While that’s true, I have so far been fortunate to hit winners on my first two visits – Hartford Flavor Company and Waypoint Spirits.

**UNIQUELY RECOMMENDED**

I give Waypoint Spirits my highest rating of **UNIQUELY RECOMMENDED** for the friendly attentive staff (Melissa and Connor), the broad selection of creatively conceived spirits that are anything but ordinary with something for just about every taste, and a commitment to local sourcing as much as possible. They are open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for tastings and tours. Visit their web site at drinkwaypoint.com for hours and directions. You can also find Groupons for discounts. Plus, you can purchase Waypoint products at the distillery during your visit.

Tell them Miss Bri, The Dark Diva, sent you!

Coming Soon In Our Next Blog Post

Look for some new recipes featuring Labrador Noon Vodka and various Wild Moon Liqueurs!

Until Next Time!