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Cognac Conversations #3: The Cognac Summit Cocktail


Cognac. You know it as one of the ultimate sippers on the planet, but what about cocktails? The answer is yes, from the classic sidecar to the ultra-modern Cognac Summit Cocktail*, Cognac does have a happy home in the world of mixology.

In this third installment of Cognac Conversation, Mutineer Editor in Chief Alan Kropf pays a surprise visit to stand-up comedian/Mutineer Director of Comedy Ben Morrison at his Hollywood apartment to make one of these so-called Cognac Summit Cocktails and prove that literally anyone is capable of whipping up this delicious cocktail at home.

Official Cognac Summit Cocktail Ingredients:

  • 1 lime peel
  • 4 thin slices of fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 oz. VSOP Cognac
  • 2 oz traditional lemonade
  • 1 long piece of cucumber peel
  • 4 or 5 ice cubes

*Because we live on the edge, we strayed a bit from the official recipe in our demonstration and used 2 oz. of Cognac and 4 oz. of lemonade, and while homemade lemonade is always preferred, sometimes you just gotta roll with Americana’s finest: Newman’s Own Old Fashioned Roadside Virgin Lemonade.

The Sidecar Recipe:
By Robert Hess from “Classic Cocktails” in Mutineer Magazine Issue #10

  • 2 oz. brandy (or cognac)
  • 1 oz. Cointreau
  • 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • Shake with ice.
  • Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

What? No sugared rim? Personally I find that the sugared rim simply makes my fingers sticky, which is far from desirable. You may of course choose to sugar yours if you so desire, but history is on my side on this since the original recipes also were presented sans rim.

Deep-Sea Vodka Maker Shay Smith of Ocean Vodka



Shay Smith of Ocean Vodka. Photo by Sean Hower

Ocean Vodka is a family-owned Maui company, but their product isn’t distilled on the Valley Isle. This is no great secret; president Shay Smith will be the first to tell you. “Yeah we get criticized by the competition because we don’t distill the spirit here, but we are making it here,” he says. Smith says two factors influence the off-island distillation: a desire to keep the vodka organic, and quality control.

The process by which Ocean Vodka gets to market is fascinating. It starts with organic sugar cane, grown free of pesticides and with no genetic modifications. The cane juice is then distilled by master Bill Scott on the Mainland. This product is combined with MaHalo Hawaii Deep Sea water from Kono’a Koyo U.S.A.—pulled from 3,000 feet below sea level and desalinated—in a Maui warehouse, then bottled by Smith’s parents, Diana and Kyle Smith. The result is 80-proof, virtually flavor-free booze. Its also wheat and gluten free. No other vodka is made this way.

“We set out six years ago to create a Hawaii product,” Smith explains. “Our goal was to be as popular as macadamia nuts, but we didn’t want to make a tourist product. We wanted a local product to compete on the world market.”

It’s working—Ocean Vodka can be now found in at least 10 states, plus Canada and Japan. “We are committed to making a difference to our planet through being an organic product,” says Smith. “And being a Maui company.”

1 comment 07.21.2011 |

Event Reflect: Rootstock, 2011


Rootstock 2011

July 16th. Rootstock, first ever. Finally here, partially thanks to Mutineer’s propelling endorsement. People all around kept on about how fiercely they’d been waiting for this event. And the “wait was rewarded,” one gentleman from Healdsburg said to me. Presence of food, wine, music, even juice.  Yes, Fuze was on the grounds, providing antagonizing vinyl by way of DJ Mini Mex. At first, you may have felt a bit stretched with direction, visual. Confounded. And, part of this is more than likely self-injected from the anticipation. Just to the right, Dry Creek Vineyard, pouring some Sauv Blanc, Cab, Zin among a hive of other emphatically poignant bottles. To the left, the all-so-well known and adored Benziger, pouring some of the event’s more impressionable Sauvignon Blancs, before a march of acrobatically notable reds. Event, underway. Work and play.

Of course, our hosting winery D’Argenzio had its varietals offered, aflutter.  Everything from a Pinot trio, to an ’05 Cab, Petite Sirah, and an erotically set 2007 D’Amarone for dessert. Owner/Winemaker Ray walked around, greeting people in his genuine, warm, hospitable resonance. The day’s emcee, Ziggy the Wine Gal, introducing bands and carrying the crowd through Rootstock’s points and frames. Also sipping the stream of wine-teamed scene in Santa Rosa’s urban wine district, Mutineer Editor-in-Chief/publisher Mr. Alan Kropf. The event presented itself like a non-pretentious jubilee of wine enjoyment, and education. Colony of minds eased, from similar trees.  Sipping, free.

One young lady from Santa Rosa told me, “I’ve never been to a wine thing like this in Santa Rosa…I don’t think there’s ever been one like this, that I know of.” She also went on to say how so many different wine styles were present, attracting consumers and wine lovers, just like so many different musical types attract listeners. I saw this observation as one of the inherent intents of Rootstock. It had to be, as the pairing was encompassingly triumphant. Dancing, tasting, 2pm to 7, fluidly. No rush or race seen. Just connection to tune, and glass.

Tough to taste all the participating wineries, but some made it possible, spitting. Among the over 30 participating producers were, Thumbprint Cellars, Simple Math Cellars, Krutz Family Cellars, Atascadero Creek, and Mounts Family Winery with its wildly irresistible Petite Sirah and Grenache, both ’08.  Just past the Fuze Juice camp, you could swing by Squire Cigars, a gorgeous little corner for aficionados of the cigar’d fold.

As the event descended in intensity and population, people were still snacking, sipping, socializing, bathing in the beats, chords. “I can’t believe it’s already over,” a lady from Mendocino County said to me, sipping her red, nibbling on the remainder of a taco. She also shared with me, “This is how all wine events should be, laid-back, relaxed, a big deal but not a big deal.” I rose from the long white table realizing that I, and many other wine lovers, harbored such ardor.

Mr. D’Argenzio was kind enough to host a little after-party, wined wind-down.  People could be heard, their vows to attend next year, how this was a pleasant surprise of a get-together. And that’s just what it felt like, a large group of friends meeting over some wine, food, and music. What wine should always be. And from those present at this first-ever Rootstock, that’s all one would see. Sip, sip…

1 comment 07.20.2011 |

Cognac Conversations #2


Cognac. The sequel. What does VS and VSOP mean? Should you buy Cognac out of an aluminum can? These questions and more will be answered as Mutineer Editor in Chief Alan Kropf attempts to educate stand-up comedians Ben Morrison (who also happens to be a regular Mutineer contributor and host of the Mutineer Comedy Festival) and Daryl Wright (also a Mutineer Comedy Festival performer) at the world renowned Jon Lovitz Comedy Club at Universal City.

Victory for Raging Bitch but Flying Dog’s First Amendment Fight With Michigan Rages On


Flying Dog Brewery Raging Bitch

After months of ensuing legal battles between the Flying Dog Brewery and the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, the Liquor Commission has reversed its position pertaining to the ban of Flying Dog’s Belgian-Style IPA Raging Bitch. The controversy began in September 2009, when Flying Dog Brewery applied for a license to sell Raging Bitch, the company’s 20th anniversary commemorative beer, in the state of Michigan. The Michigan Liquor Control Commission barred the sale of Raging Bitch, claiming that the beer’s label is “detrimental to the public health, safety and welfare.”

Flying Dog finally filed suit on March 25th, but not only to overturn their decision, but to deem the Liquor Commission’s ability to ban any beer label that they find offensive unconstitutional. On top of that, Flying Dog Brewery is seeking to recover damages lost from the banning of the beer in Michigan.

“The Michigan Liquor Control Commission’s involuntary reversal of opinion is a victory for craft beer,” Flying Dog CEO and General Partner Jim Caruso said. “Now, the great people of Michigan are no longer denied access to Raging Bitch Belgian-Style IPA, Flying Dog’s top-selling beer. But the fight for First Amendment rights in Michigan continues to rage on.”

Rages on it does indeed. “We’re glad that the people of Michigan are now free to decide for themselves whether Flying Dog’s beer labels are, like the beer, in good taste. Our lawsuit forced the Liquor Commissioners to see at least some of the light. But the litigation won’t end until the Commissioners accept responsibility for the damage they’ve caused by violating the First Amendment,” Flying Dog’s attorney Alan Gura, partner at Gura & Possessky, said.

Well done, Flying Dog, keep fighting the good fight. HST would be proud.

1 comment 07.19.2011 |

MillerCoors Temporarily Forced out of Minnesota


MillerCoors Logo

MillerCoors and their portfolio of fine beverage products are being temporarily forced out of Minnesota due to paperwork issues.

According to CNN:

“The MillerCoors brewing company will soon be forced to pull 39 brands of beers from every restaurant, bar and liquor store in the state of Minnesota.

It’s all because the company wasn’t able to renew their brand label registration far enough in advance before the state’s government shut down.

What that means is they’re not able to either distribute or sell their product in this state,” said Doug Neville, spokesperson for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.”

The paperwork issue stems from MillerCoors’ needing to resubmit their paperwork due to an overpayment of fees. In street culture we call those “bribes”. No word on how long #TheGreatMillerCoorsShortageof2011 will last. MillerCoors apparently can’t even leave their product out in distribution; they will have to literally pull 39 brands off of shelves until the government starts back up.

1 comment 07.18.2011 |

So You Want to be an Absinthe Connoisseur…Part 2



Photo by Brian Huff Photography

We hope you enjoyed our first entry in our Absinthe Connoisseur series of articles.  Now that you know a bit more about the different types of absinthe available in the marketplace today, we wanted to explain a bit more about how to taste and/or review an absinthe. 

When a person is drawn to absinthe, we believe they’re usually seeking the full and complete Belle Époque experience—the experience of Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Verlaine and Toulouse-Lautrec: the full and true experience of the most mysterious and romantic drink in history. What did the patrons at the Moulin Rouge and the Cabaret du Chat Noir taste, smell, and feel when they drank absinthe? This is the standard against which we judge modern absinthes. See the full post »

Event Recap: Vintage Hollywood 2011


Vintage Hollywood

Did I tell you I used to be a foster care social worker? No? That’s so strange; I thought we had no secrets…

Anyway. Having spent untold hours working to improve out-of-home care for anywhere between 300-500 Los Angeles youth, there are certain organizations that hold a particularly soft place in my heart. Ocean Park Community Center (OPCC) is one of those organizations.

From the OPCC website:

OPCC (Ocean Park Community Center) is the largest and most comprehensive provider of housing and services on the Westside to low-income and homeless youth, adults and families, battered women and their children, and people living with mental illness, particularly homeless mentally ill women.  OPCC currently operates 257 emergency and transitional beds in six facilities, and has over 150 individuals living in apartments throughout the region with rental subsidy vouchers obtained by OPCC.

You can imagine how thrilled I was, then, to accept an invitation to the 2011 Vintage Hollywood charity event on June 11 – a major fund-raising gala for OPCC.

Held at the private home of Mr. and Mrs. Alex Kouba, the grassy lot adjacent to the house was spotted with white lanterns and seating, and ringed with tables offering star-quality wine and food, like oysters from Blue Plate Oysterette and Oyster Gourmet; Waterloo & City’s foie gras chicken liver mousse; Mozza’s burrata and pesto with roasted tomato; steak tartare from Bouchon; and desserts from Valerie Confections, Florentino Ice Cream and simplethings. There were only 350 tickets available, so securing the best from the attending 22 wineries and 19 restaurants wasn’t much of a problem. For these perks, guests paid anywhere from $250 (for an individual ticket) to $25,000 (at the “Vineyard Sponsorship” level). In-between, celebrities such as Ben and Christine Stiller, Courtney Cox and David Arquette, Marcia Cross and Thomas Mahoney joined an assortment of donors – from banks to private philanthropists – to support OPCC’s cause.

Again, from the website:

Since 2002, the Vintage Hollywood event has raised more than $1,100,000 to benefit organizations including Children’s Action Network, JDRF, Save the Children and United Friends of Children.

A food and wine event, benefiting one of my champion charities? For me, there couldn’t have been a better pairing.

List of wineries from 2011:

Ampelos Cellars and Vineyard • Arrowhead Mountain • Baxter Winery • Bodegas M • Captûre Wines • Center for Wine Origins • Clos Pepe • David Family Wines • Forlorn Hope Wines • Hitching Post Wines • Kristine Ashe Vineyards • La Fenêtre Wines • L’Aventure Winery • Les Deux Chats Cellars • L’Objet Wines • Malibu Family Wines • Martian Ranch & Vineyard • Peters Family Winery • Skipstone • Terra Valentine • Terry Hoage Vineyards • Tres Sabores

Vintage Hollywood

Vintage Hollywood

2011 restaurants in attendance:

Akasha • Blue Plate Oysterette • Bouchon • Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf • Florentino Ice Cream • The Foundry on Melrose • Jar • La Sandia • Literati Bar and Grill • On Sunset • Mozza • Oyster Gourmet • simplethings • Tavern • BAR Toscana • Valerie Confections • Waterloo & City • Whist • Zengo

Vintage Hollywood

Comments Off on Event Recap: Vintage Hollywood 2011 07.14.2011 |

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