Here's The Jist:

As a Drink Editor I receive a lot of requests for restaurant, bar and nightlife recommendations. So I started a blog to chronicle Chicago's social scene which eventually morphed into New York's drinking and dining scene. After years in Chicago, I'm now a full time resident of NYC, the East Village to be exact. Look forward to sharing the latest and greatest from the wine & spirits world, straight from the Big Apple.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Shine On - The Original Moonshine

Throw your pre-conceived notions out the door. The Prohibition era may exist on PBS specials and HBO but gone are the days of bathtub gin and low quality D.i.Y. moonshine. I recently sat down with Chuck Miller, master distiller of The Original Moonshine and Shem Blum, Brand Ambassador (and mixologist at the Boom Boom Room at the Standard) for a tasting at Macelleria - a steakhouse in the meatpacking district in Manhattan.

Meat and Moonshine?

You bet.

In fact, during happy hour Macelleria has a promo where they offer up a side of Smithfield Virginia Ham as a small bite to accompany a Moonshine cocktail - a fitting combination given both brands’ commitment to local food and ingredients.

Miller, who donned plaid and a cowboy hat (love), spoke to his family’s long standing tradition of distilling this storied American spirit.

But what is Moonshine?

The Original Moonshine is clear corn whiskey, hand-crafted from 100% estate-grown corn and distilled four times in a Prohibition-era copper pot still. At 80 proof, the Virginia distillery prides itself on sticking to an all-natural, gluten-free, proprietary recipe. The whiskey is charcoal-filtered which produces a pure and smooth flavor.

Moonshine is a gateway spirit. It has more flavor than vodka, it’s not as polarizing as gin and is not as aggressive as a brown spirit such as bourbon or scotch. For newbies, first try it neat, at room temp. Then add a couple of ice cubes to open it up. And finally, segue into a cocktail with Shine as the base spirit.

It’s versatile, approachable liquor that will undoubtedly be incorporated in my next Bloody Mary or mixed with apple cider.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cupcake Vineyards

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of dining with Adam Richardson, Chief Winemaker for Cupcake Vineyards at the oh-so-chic Setai Hotel on 5th Ave. It was an intimate dinner of about 10, where we wined and dined and covered off on the inspiration behind the name "Cupcake" for a winery and discussed the best methods for nurturing young and old vines.

Adam showcased a stellar selection of his Cupcake wines, including several new vintage bottlings - delish and to die for when paired with the Italian cuisine from Ai Fiori.

Since it's introduction in 2008, Cupcake wines have seen strong growth. After chatting with the charming Aussie, it's evident that this is due in part to Adam. Australian born and trained, he brings an international perspective to bear on winemaking. By sourcing grapes from the places around the world where they grow best -- Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand's Marlborough, Prosecco from Italy's Prosecco D.O.C., Chardonnay from California's Central Coast, for instance -- he is able to craft a unique lineup of high quality, regionally expressive wines of place.

And they're affordably priced - $15 a bottle (at max).

A personal favorite is the Red Velvet, a blended red with notes of chocolate and deep rich blackberries - it's smooth, just as the name implies.

The label has a fantastic selection of wines, perfect for any occasion - from a fall dinner party to weekend brunch.