Category Archives: Cocktails

National Tequila Day with Don Julio

Nutmeg adds an extra zip to a margarita.

DonJulioTequilaThis evening, we broke out the Don Julio Añejo 70, a fine reposado that we save for such special occasions as National Tequila Day, which happens to be today. To sip a nip or mix it? That was the question, and the answer was, as if often is, a margarita. But such an important holiday merits an important marg.

We checked online, and the Don Julio site provided a recipe. Though other possibilities were also enticing, we happened to have agave nectar, lime and nutmeg  on hand, so Don Julio’s Reposado Margarita it was. It turned out to be very interesting and confirmed that nutmeg is good for more than eggnog and cappuccino:

Reposado Margarita

1 .5 oz. Tequila Don Julio Reposado
0.75 oz. agave nectar
0.75 oz. fresh lime juice
fresh nutmeg

Mix Tequila Don Julio Reposado, agave nectar and lime juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice and add a pinch of nutmeg over the top.

Gracias, Don Julio.

Modis Remains One of Breck’s Best

Happy hour at this Main Street restaurant more than satisfies.

Modis-signModis-signModis-sign025Since it opened, Modis in Breckenridge has been place that  serves several functions: local hangout with a great bar with two daily happy hours, a smoker in place for house-smoked specialties, fine-dining restaurant upstairs and in the warm months, a dynamite deck for eating, imbibing and hanging out. I hadn’t been there for several years — not since Justin and Teryn Guadagnoli bought it in the fall of 2013.

The bar is better than ever, with a robust wine list, a big selection of craft beers, innovative cocktails and a continuation of the vibrant menu selections for which it was always known. Four of us were strolling Main Street when the “happy hour” sign caught my eye. We went in for drinks and ended up making dinner from the excellent happy hour food selection.

The soup of the day -- thick and filling -- though I didn't order it and can't recall the flavor.
The soup of the day — thick and filling — though I didn’t order it and can’t recall the flavor.
A mountain of linguine-thin shoestring potatoes with two dipping sauces.
A mountain of linguine-thin shoestring potatoes with two dipping sauces.
Beautiful mixed green  salad with a sensational black garlic vinaigrette.
Beautiful mixed green salad with a sensational black garlic vinaigrette.

Continue reading Modis Remains One of Breck’s Best

Top Taco’s Winning Tacos & Margs

New competition crowned champions in Mexican categories.

TopTaco-logoI had a prior commitment and unfortunately could not attend yesterday’s first-ever Top Taco competition in Denver, but Eater Denver (or is it Denver Eater? — I never know) was there and posted a report. Here’s the site’s list of winners:

Traditional Tacos (judges’ selections)

1. Comida for its Stella pork carnita taco.
2 Pinche Tacos for its own version of the carnita taco.
3. Billy’s Inn for its fish taco.

Creative Tacos (judges’ selections)

1. Machete for its cricket taco on a house made hibiscus tortilla.
2. Los Chingones for its mini lengua taco.
3. The Squeaky Bean for its steak and shrimp taco.

Traditional Tacos (people’s choice) 

1. Pinche Tacos
2. Billys Inn
3. Highland Tap

Creative Tacos (people’s choice)
1. Moontower
2. Comida
3. Zengo

Margarita (judges’ selections)
1. La Biblioteca
2. Comida
3. Adelitas

Margarita (people’s choice)

1. La Biblioteca
2. Machete
3. Adelitas

Presumably, a good time was had by all.

 

Margaritas at Colorado’s Rio Grande Restaurants

February 22 National Margarita Day, and the Rio’s are famous.

RioGrande-logoMy favorite mixed drink from the standard repertory is the margarita, either frozen or on the rocks. I order a marg every time I visit a Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurant. National Margarita Day, designated for February 22. It seems an arbitrary date, because the origins of the margarita are as fuzzy as the brain of anyone who has one too many. All that is known about the invention of the classic margarita was this it dates back to the 1930s or ’40s.  In the 1970s, an inventive bartender converted a soft serve ice cream unit into a frozen margarita machine.

The Rio Grande's pretty margarita is also pretty tasty and pretty strong.
The Rio Grande’s pretty margarita is also pretty tasty and pretty strong.

Every day is Margarita Day at the Rio Grande, Jose Cuervo’s largest on-premise account in the US. More than 300,000 margaritas are mixed annually at the Rio’s six locations every year (Fort Collins, Boulder, Denver, Park Meadows, Greeley and Steamboat Springs), . They are so potent that the Rio awaited Skinny Margarita, the Coin Margarita and the Ricky, a frozen Rio Marg and Corinita—a mini Corona beer turned upside down in a margarita.

In honor of National Margarita Day, and the marg-fueled meals I’ve enjoyed at the Boulder Rio (in walking distance of my house, I hasten to add), here are some fun facts provided by the restaurant chain:

  • 3 hippos + 1 mouse = weight of limes used in 1 year (average mature male hippo weight = 7,000 pounds).
  • 3 goats = cost of 2-ounce shot of Jose Cuervo 250 Aniversario Tequila (average goat cost – $85).
  • 6000+ = cases of Jose Cuervo gold used each year.
  • Longs Peak  (elevation 14,259 feet) = 1 month of marg glasses stacked.
  • More than 300,000 margaritas are mixed Rio-wide every year.
  • Value of tequila vault in Denver: $8,820+.
  • The Rio’s annual kosher salt use equals the salt content of 16,000 gallons of seawater.
  • The Rio chops enough limes each year to put five in each seat at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
  • 26,810 pounds of strawberries are used annually in Strawberry and Strawberry Lites.

Tasting Iceland’s Reyka Vodka in Denver

Made of Iceland spring water and made for great cocktails

ReykaVodka-logoI’m obsessively watching the Winter Olympics from Sochi, Russia, so vodka is on my mind. I’m eagerly awaiting the schedule for the upcoming Society of American Travel Writers Convention in Reykjavik, so Iceland is on my mind. And I know that Tom Coohill, owner/chef of Cohills, a fine restaurant overlooking Cherry Creek on the fringes of LoDo, has been selected as one of the 13 international guest chefs to compete in Iceland’s Food and Fun Festival in Reykjavik from February 26 to March 2.  The Coohill-Iceland connection first surfaced with a special Taste of Iceland menu offered for just a few days in September 2012; click here for my post.

Little wonder, then, that I jumped at the chance to meet Daniel Brancusi, the brand ambassador of Iceland’s Reyka Vodka to the US. Reyka is an heir to the great tradition of distilled spirits from Scotland. William Grant & Sons, a giant in the world of Scotch, went on a mission to create a perfect vodka. They installed a rare CarterHead still in the village of Borgarnes, adding a botanical basket for the distinctive Icelandic herbs that imbue a unique flavor. In the geo-thermal-powered facility, Reyka’s master distiller Thordor Siggurdson hand-crafts the small-batch vodka filtered through ancient lava rocks and made from the purest Icelandic spring water. Click here for details on the process. Bottom line is that Reyka captures a clean taste with a crisp, smooth finish.

The Reyka Vodka still in a small town near Reykjavik, Iceland.
The Reyka Vodka still in a small town near Reykjavik, Iceland.

Coohills serves Reyka vodka, as do Oak at Fourteenth in Boulder and Acorn at The Source in Denver, where I tried a cocktails made with it. Bryan Dayton, the creative beverage director at both Oak and Acorn, devised those two Reyka-bearing cocktails.

Acorn's lusty, flavorful bloody Mary is made with Reyka Vodka,
Acorn’s lusty, flavorful bloody Mary is made with Reyka Vodka, “the real dill” bloody Mary mix and Demitri’s spice mix with Old Bay liberally coating the rim and a stalk of celery and a lemon wedge.
Crossing the Tracks is a more subtle, but no less flavorful cocktail. Reyka vodka, aperole, St. Germain. aloe, and grapefruit are served in a stemmed cocktail glass.
Crossing the Tracks is a more subtle, but no less flavorful cocktail. Reyka vodka, aperole, St. Germain. aloe, grapefruit juice and a floating lemon wedge are served in a stemmed cocktail glass.

With its small-batch artisanal commitment, I don’t imagine we’ll ever see see Reyka on every cocktail menu in town, but I’m guessing the Oak-Acorn and Coohills’ mixologists won’t be the only ones around using the clean, distinctive vodka.

Redo of Boulder Rio’s Menu

P1040030The downtown Boulder location of the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant has embarked on a redesign. The first phase is a revamped rooftop bar and the addition of a cozy, low-ceilinged (and therefore very loud) new mezzanine bar. In this repurposed storage room, the new Shift Bar was named to recognize the building’s earlier role as an auto-body shop. The walls are decorated with the likes of an arrangement of wrenches evoking the past.

Traditionally, people haven’t gone to the Rio primarily for the food, though it is scratch-made and reliably consistent. They go for the margaritas (a limit of three per person, whether a petite woman or a big guy with a linebacker build). The service always seems to depends on the server and can be anything from off-handed to efficient. And it has not been a place for cleanliness freaks, because the table might be sticky or the floor sprinkled with crumbs and other food remnants — or maybe not. But for potent drinks, a party atmosphere and moderate prices, it can’t be beat. In a previous post, I wrote about the Rio experience — and it has better food images too.

The menu has been tinkered with to bring it very much up to today’s tastes in food and drink. In addition to the potent margaritas (rocks or frozen, salt or not, lime or strawberry), the Rio has now cocktailized its drink menu. New on the menu are the likes of Ranch Water (El Tesoro silver, soda water and fresh lime), Paloma (the Rio’s introduction of Herradura silver plus soda, fresh grapefruit juice and a slice of lime) and the Perfect Storm (Herradura reposada, fresh lime, ginger beer and cassis). In addition to the tequila cocktails, the new cucumber mojito is the only rum-based item.

The Perfect Storm, one of the Boulder Rio's new cocktails.
The Perfect Storm, one of the Boulder Rio’s new cocktails.

Executive chef Nate Booth has developed a new bar menu of scratch-made small plates to go with the new drinks. Some samples:

P1040042

P1040043

P1040045

Rio Grande Mexican on Urbanspoon

Divine Sips & Bites at Restaurant Kevin Taylor

P1020901Restaurant Kevin Taylor might just have to be renamed Restaurant Kevin & Ryan Taylor, because chef/restaurateur Kevin’s son Ryan is now executive chef in his dad’s fine-dining restaurant in Denver’s classy and dramatic Hotel Teatro. Ryan is only 24, but his style is mature and deft.

It doesn’t seem to have been nepotism but talent and the same sensibility for refined and creative dishes with balanced flavors and artistic presentation. Ryan’s dishes display his father’s high standards and instead of culinary school, he staged in Europe and now is top toque In the Kevin Taylor Restaurant Group’s flagship.

Executive chef Ryan Taylor popped upstairs to a private room on the mezzanine to explain each dish, then returned to the kitchen on the main floor.
Executive chef Ryan Taylor popped upstairs to a private room on the mezzanine to explain each dish, then returned to the kitchen on the main floor.

The restaurant invited a group of Front Range bloggers to sample microcosmic versions of items from the new menu. Each tasting portion was accompanied by a shot glass of a special cocktail. The event was cocktail party-style with all of us crowded around small tables as the waitstaff brought course after course, drink after drink.

Silky foie gras mousse with turnip marmalade (yes!) and miso gastrique on an amaretti socca cracker, a gluten-free cracker made with chickpea flour.
Silky foie gras mousse with turnip marmalade (yes!) and miso gastrique on an amaretti socca cracker, a gluten-free cracker made with chickpea flour. Cocktail: Van Gogh apple vodka, DiSaronno and Lucien Albright rose.
Lamb and eucalyptus soup with lime, pine nuts and a glaze of EVOO. Cocktail: Hendricks gin, limocello, mint and lemon verbena..
Lamb and eucalyptus soup with lime, pine nuts and a glaze of EVOO. Cocktail: Hendricks gin, limocello, mint and lemon verbena..
Lobster tartar with mustard seed, blood orange, basil and horseradish on an endive
Lobster tartar with mustard seed, blood orange, basil and horseradish on an endive “boat.” Cocktail: Bloody Mary martini made with pepper vodka, orange juice and micro-basil.
Scottish salmon rillettes on a sweet potato cake base with buckwheat granola and apple Earl Grey compote, the first of two tastes served on Chinese soup spoon. Cocktail: Stranahan's whiskey, grapefruit juice and muddle cucumber,
Scottish salmon rillettes on a sweet potato cake base with buckwheat granola and apple Earl Grey compote, the first of two tastes served on Chinese soup spoon. Cocktail: Stranahan’s whiskey, grapefruit juice and muddle cucumber,
Braised bison shortrib with cumin, oolive beet relish and prune puree, pictured here with the paired cocktail: rye whiskey, Campari bitters and, of all soft drinks, root beer.
Braised bison shortrib with cumin, olive- beet relish and prune puree, pictured here with the paired cocktail: rye whiskey, Campari bitters and, of all soft drinks, root beer.
Dessert was Restaurant Kevin Taylor's version of Snickers (peanut butter powder, burn caramel and nougat in a chocolate mantle.
Dessert was Restaurant Kevin Taylor’s version of Snickers (peanut butter powder, burn caramel and nougat in a chocolate mantle.
The dessert cocktail merits space of its own. This chocolate
The dessert cocktail merits space of its own. This chocolate “martini” combines Godiva liqueur, Frangelico and Baileys in shot glass whose rim was dipped into molten chocolate and sugared.

No Price Check here, because this was a special event, but know that Restaurant Kevin Taylor is a pricey place. Then again, you get what you pay for: interesting food, often in unusual combinations, exquisitely plated and meticulously served. One of Denver’s finest, for sure.

Restaurant Kevin Taylor on Urbanspoon