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Jordan Mackay

How To Have A Merry Christmas Eve: Homemade Eggnog

When I was a kid, there was nothing I liked better than that deep yellowish-gold, ultra thick and viscous, unctuously sweet eggnog that you could buy from the store. Well, a couple of years ago I discovered that it is as easy to mix up a batch of that stuff for yourself at home as it is to make a margarita--and it's so much more delicious than store-bought, chemical-laden eggnog that, yes, it's funny.

The Secret to Great Whiskey Cocktails: Whiskey Barrel Bitters

It's the time of year when whiskey cocktails are as common a sight as long waiting lines in front of every cash register. And no wonder, after waiting in those lines to spend your money, you're gonna need a good drink.

Now, I confess that I've been much in the spirit of drinking bourbon and rye this December. It's a little embarrasing to admit how many Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, and Sazerac have passed these lips in the last few weeks. But I can't say that I haven't enjoyed them. What I can say is that I've enjoyed every drink a little more, once I started putting these Whiskey Barrel-Aged bitters from Fee Brothers in them.

The Four Best Winter Beers

One cool thing about beer is that it's so seasonal. Brewers can make a new batch anytime they want and tailor its flavors and styles to the season. Winter beers and Christmas ales have long been a favorite among both brewers and drinkers. And here in the Bay Area we have more than our fair share of choices. Here's a four of my faves, each in a different style: 

Classic Cocktails, Twitter Taste-Offs: The Drinking Trends of 2009

1. Cheap and Cheerful
The economy has got people drinking cheaper bottles of wine. But learning something along the way. As a sommelier in a high-end restaurant told me, “Maybe wine drinkers are learning that often what makes wine expensive is not only high quality, but things like fashion and availability.”

2. DIY Everything
Bartenders started the DIY trend a couple of years ago by making their own bitters. But now witness the portfolio of shrubs (syrups made from fresh fruit and vinegar) from Nopa’s Neyah White and the tonic water made with cinchona bark and assorted herbs and flowers from her backyard made by Pizzaiolo’s Cate Whalen. What’s next? Glass blowing?

Sweet Wines for Holiday Sweets

You know you're deep into the holiday cheer when you open the door in the morning and find brownies and cookies on your doorstep. Let the poundage begin! Whether you like it or not, holiday sweets are unavoidable. So, all the better to make them palatable by drinking the right kinds of things with them. While I'm not a prolific drinker of dessert wines, they do have their time and place. So there are three versatile types of sweet wines to keep around to cover most of your holiday needs. Just remember the basic fact of pairing sweet things: The wine should always be sweeter than the dessert. If you don't follow that, neither dessert nor wine will taste good. If you do follow it, it's all good!

Beer, Cocktail and Wine. Three Gifts for the Drinker in Your Life.

Good drinking is often a pleasure not only in the taste and texture of the drink itself, but also in the peraphernalia that goes along with it. Sommeliers take great pride in their favorite corkscrews for instance, just as do bartenders in their tools. So, for the drinking connoisseur in your life, I present the following gift ideas.

What Should Replace Shuttered Tsar Nicoulai? A Cocktail Bar.

SF Eater today writes that the Tsar Nicoulai booth in the Ferry Building is closing. It's understandable why—this is not exactly a period of widespread populist Champagne and caviar consumption. However, it's still a bummer. A little scoop of caviar every now and then (without having to buy a whole tin) is a wonderful thing, especially when you pair that with a nice glass of bubbly. (Vodka and caviar advocates: sorry, you're wrong.

Ice Wine: Snow in the Vineyards!

There's something compelling about a vineyard covered in snow, especially here in California when we don't see it much. What makes it so interesting? Probably just the fact that we're used to vineyards being such a symbol of vibrance, life and energy--to see them looking snowbound, shuttered and contemplative proposes an entirely different angle on wine. It reminds me of northern wine regions and makes me want to drink Burgundy and Champagne (actually, that's nothing really new).

These photos were shot the other day in the Santa Cruz Mountains and sent out by Shannon Flynn of SCM winegrowers association. Nice to see that appellation getting into the winter holiday spirit!

The Martini: Ditch the Stopwatch and Keep it Cool

I dug Jon Bonné's supremely geeky article on the martini in the Chron yesterday. But "supremely geeky" may not even do the high-waisted, suspendered and bespectacled article justice. I mean, the martini—the drink of such caliphs of cool as James Bond and Frank Sinatra—is approached in the article like this: "The bar top was crowded with gin and vermouth, a thermometer, a stopwatch, a cooler of chilled glasses." I'm sorry, but I just can't see my boys Frankie and Dino timing their stirs.

The Rum of the Ancient Mariner: Smuggler's Cove Worthy of Hype

Dutifully, I attended the Smuggler's Cove press preview last night. Stupidly, I forgot any sort of camera, so I don't have any images for you. But, happily, I can report that after a long wait, much anticipation, a lot of hype (from me) the place will live up to its high expectations.

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