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If You Pour Margaritas, San Antonio Will Come

If You Pour Margaritas, San Antonio Will Come

Pour a margarita, get an audience.

Pour a margarita, get an audience.

Sunday brought the second annual Margarita Meltdown to La Villita, and temperatures in the upper 90s made it seem as if melting were on the menu. But the showcase, sponsored in part by Milagro Tequila, still drew hundreds of thirsty San Antonians to sip their way through samples from a dozen places around town.

La Fogata has its own margarita fountain.

La Fogata has its own margarita fountain.

The list of participants included Cha-Cha’s, Alamo Cafe, Two Step Restaurant, Cafe Ole, Henry’s Puffy Tacos, the Cork Bar at the Hotel Contessa, La Tequilera del Patron, Ojos Locos Sports Cantina and La Fogata. Whiskey Cake also poured their margarita even though their restaurant isn’t set to open at the Shops at La Cantera until early November. Margarita Texas, a mix in need of only tequila and ice, also poured their version of the local favorite.

Cha-Cha's offers tacos as well as margaritas.

Cha-Cha’s offers tacos as well as margaritas.

Tuk Tuk Taproom and Cha-Cha’s were among the restaurants offer snacks to munch on between sips.

Fresh squeezed lime juice, tequila and agave nectar were all popular ingredients, though some booths also added their unique touch, including cucumber, mango, peach and even some spices and herbs, from cilantro to chipotle.

In case you missed the event but still want to enjoy a tasty variation on this classic cocktail, here’s a version from the 1970s as it appears in the Houston cookbook, “Cooking Collectibles.”


Place glasses in freezer after dampening edges and spinning the rim in salt.

3 ounces tequila
1 1/2 ounces triple sec or Cointreau liqueur
1 1/2 ounces lemon juice

Stir ingredients with ice. Strain into chilled glass.

Makes 1 serving.

From “Cooking Collectibles: Favorite Recipes from the Friends of the Greater Houston American Cancer Society,” edited by Ann Criswell.

James Gonzaba hands out margaritas from La Taquilera del Patron.

James Gonzaba hands out margaritas from La Taquilera del Patron.

The Puffy Taco wants a margarita.

The Puffy Taco wants a margarita.

Henry's Puffy Tacos uses an ice sculpture to chill its margaritas.

Henry’s Puffy Tacos uses an ice sculpture to chill its margaritas.

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Griffin to Go: Get Your Pink On

Griffin to Go: Get Your Pink On

This coming Saturday is one of my favorite days of the year.


Think pink on Saturday.

That’s when Culinaria presents Rambling Rosé at Becker Vineyards, 464 Becker Farms Road, Stonewall.

During the two panels, set for 1 and 3 p.m., a roomful of wine lovers get together to discuss one of the most maligned yet resilient wines produced.

When the event began more than 10 years ago, rosé was not taken seriously by too many American wine writers, at least the pompous overgrown boys who drink only Cabernet no matter what the temperature is outside. Back then, pink wine was also thought to be white Zinfandel, that cloyingly sweet concoction that tastes more like soda than wine.

We would ask the audience how many people drank rosé, which is dry, not sweet, and very few outside of the panelists answered yes.

But something funny happened on the way to the winery. Year after year, the number of people who drank rosé began to grow. The number of wineries in America making serious pink wine took off. Wine shops began devoting more shelf space to these beauties, and sales increased steadily.

Rosé comes in many shades of pink.

Rosé comes in many shades of pink.

Most importantly, people began to realize how enjoyable a dry rosé can be. It’s the perfect summer wine, fresh and refreshing, youthful and vibrant. It’s great with a whole array of foods or just by itself. And that may be why it’s now my go-to style of wine for the 10 months of the year when the thermometer shows a bit of red.

Plus, they’re often affordable, though Chateau d’Esclans from Provence makes a rosé that sells for more than $100 a bottle.

So, come join us to learn more about all of the styles, flavors and colors that can be considered a rosé. Winery owner Richard Becker, sommelier Steven Kreuger, Bonnie Walker and I will all be part of the panel, which has also included winemakers, wine educators and rosé aficionados. We’ll taste a number of pink wines from around the world along with food from chef John Brand of the upcoming Hotel Emma at the Pearl.

The price is $25, which includes the wines, the food and some summer fun at Becker Vineyards. For tickets, click here.

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Bending Branch Winery Brings Home the Gold

Bending Branch Winery Brings Home the Gold

COMFORT – Bending Branch Winery is rolling in gold.

bending branchThe Hill Country winery recently won three Best-of-Appellation Double Gold Medals and one Gold Medal for four Texas wines from Appellation America, an online source of information on North American wines and wineries. Its Best-of-Appellation program recognizes the distinctive character and “sense of place” of wines produced in different regions and appellations.

“Being recognized for Best of Appellation (BOA) wines for four different varietals grown in Texas is a milestone for Bending Branch Winery,” said Robert Young, a founder of Bending Branch and co-winemaker with John Rivenburgh. “We are particularly thrilled that our Estate Tannat and Picpoul Blanc achieved BOA recognition.

Bending Branch won a total of four Best-of-Appellation Double Gold Medals, signifying exceptional expression of regional character/quality, including the following three Texas wines:

  • 2012 Picpoul Blanc, Estate (Texas Hill Country) – bright acidity dances on your palate with tastes of tropical fruits and sweet citrus layered with hints of honey and cream.
  • 2011 Tempranillo, Newsom Vineyards (Texas High Plains) – often referred to as the noble grape of Spain, Tempranillo has earned its accolades as one of the preeminent red varieties of Texas. It has classic notes of espresso grounds, sweet pipe tobacco, with rich bing cherry and raspberry notes.
  • 2011 Tannat, Estate (Texas Hill Country) – Tannat, a Southern French native, is a signature grape for Bending Branch, offering black cherry and raspberry flavors and hints of white pepper and Indian spice.

bendingbranchwinery_tannatBending Branch also was awarded a BOA Double Gold for its NV Souzao, Silvaspoons Vineyard, AVA Alta Meza, in Lodi, California.

Its 2011 Mourvedre, Reddy Vineyards (Texas High Plains), won a Best-of-Appellation Gold Medal. The Mourvedre has a nose of violets and rich dark berry fruits, and raspberry and rhubarb flavors complimented by star anise, vanilla and chai spices.

“Every Texas winery acknowledges that Bob Young and John Rivenburgh are leading the charge in the growing excellence of Texas wines,” said Clark Smith, author of “Postmodern Winemaking.” “Rather than sheepishly following the received wisdom from California, they apply thorough study to the suitability of novel varieties and new technologies, and then follow up with courageous investments of both capital and attention to detail.  Realizing that the perceived quality of all local wines is critical to their success, their experiments are geared to benefit the whole industry throughout Texas.  Appellation has rated its Estate Tannat and Picpoul Blanc and the Texas High Plains Tempranillo among the best wines produced in America.”

Bending Branch Winery, a boutique winery near Comfort in the Texas Hill Country AVA, is a sustainable practices and organically focused operation with 20 acres of vines comprising 16 grape varieties, including its signature varieties, Tannat and Picpoul Blanc. It produces wines from both Texas and California appellations.

For more information about Bending Branch Winery, visit the website at

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Drink Up National Tequila Day with Your Choice of Cocktails

Drink Up National Tequila Day with Your Choice of Cocktails

Cucumber Mint Margarita

Cucumber Mint Margarita

July 24 is National Tequila Day. To help you celebrate this august occasion, we’re offering four recipes of tequila cocktails that range from the simple, single cocktail to a pitcher-sized party mix.

Some are from Texas. Others are just spiced as if they’re from here. And all are worth a sip or three.

Cucumber Mint Margarita

A lively dose of Tabasco Sauce gives this cool, refreshing margarita a little kick. Enjoy the ride.

1/2 cup chopped cucumber, peeled and seeded
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup key lime juice
1/4 cup chopped mint
1/3 cup tequila reposado
2 tablespoons orange liqueur
1/8 teaspoon Tabasco Sauce
6 ice cubes
Salt to rim glasses
2 cucumber slices for garnish

Blend ingredients in a blender for 1 minute. Divide between two 6-ounce salt-rimmed glasses. Garnish each glass with a cucumber slice.

Makes 2 cocktails.

Raspberry Picante Paloma Pitchers

Guy on FireThis recipe comes from Guy Fieri’s latest cookbook, “Guy on Fire” (William Morrow, $29.99). As Fieri says, “Oh yeah! This is one they won’t forget. I can hear it now — “Yeah! The drink had raspberries and jalapeños, and it as so the bomb!”

12  fresh raspberries
4 thin slices jalapeño pepper
12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) tequila, preferably 100 percent blue agave tequila blanco
1 1/2 cups fresh ruby red grapefruit juice
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 1/4 cups club soda or lemon-lime soda

Grapefruit Salt:
1/4 cup kosher salt
Grated zest of 1 grapefruit
Lime wedges, for garnish

In a glass pitcher, muddle the raspberries and jalapeño, then fill halfway with ice. Add the tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice and agave. Take a second pitcher (the same size) and pour one into the other repeatedly to mix the drink together. Top it off with club soda or lemon-lime soda.

To make the grapefruit salt, crush the salt and grapefruit zest together with a mortar and pestle, then spread on a plate. Run a lime wedge around the rim of each glass, then dip the glasses in the grapefruit salt. Fill with the cocktails.

Prep-ahead tip: Make the base recipe (minus the club soda) in big battches, up to a day ahead, and hold it in the fridge, so when the party is on, all you need to do is pour (rather than stand behind the bar making drinks all night). Just top off each glass with club soda while you’re serving so the drinks stay nice and effervescent.

Makes 6-8 servings.

From “Guy on Fire” by Guy Fieri with Ann Volkwein

Matt’s Old Fashioned

Tipsy TexanThis twist on a classic cocktail comes from David Alan’s “Tipsy Texan: Spirits and Cocktails from the Lone Star State” (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $19.99). It was inspired by a Texas classic, he writes: “For generations of Austinites, dining at Matt’s El Rancho has been a tradition that has often begun in utero. This tequila Old Fashioned variation is a tribute to that venerable temple of Tex-Mex.”

2 ounces añejo tequila
1/2 ounce elderflower liqueur
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
Dash of orange bitters

Using a swivel-handled vegetable peeler, remove a strip of lemon peel and a strip of orange peel from the respective fruits over an Old Fashioned glass, allowing the peels to fall into the glass and capturing as much essential oil as possible. Add the tequila, elderflower liqueur and both bitters. Fill the glass with ice, preferably in large chunks. Stir using a bar spoon to integrate and dilute.

Makes 1 cocktail.

From “The Tipsy Texan” by David Alan

Juan’s Tequila Sour

You’ll have to hunt through used bookstores probably to find a copy of the 1978 edition of “Fiesta,” the Junior League of Corpus Christi’s cookbook. It’s worth the hunt. Until you find a copy, here’s a taste of Juan’s Tequila Sour, as contributed by Mrs. John W. Creveling Jr. (Judy Hoepfner).

2 ounces tequila
2 ounces simple syrup
2 ounces fresh lime juice

Mix the tequila, syrup and lime juice. The proportions may be varied to suite individual tastes. Serve over cracked ice.

Makes 1 serving.

From “Fiesta” by the Junior League of Corpus Christi

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Fire Up the Fourth — and Chill with These Creative Cocktails

Fire Up the Fourth — and Chill with These Creative Cocktails

In the middle of summer, we anticipate the Fourth of July for fireworks, wienie roasts and barbecue, cooling off in the pool, going to a parade (or participating in one) and thinking about what Independence Day means. Cold beer, a glass of wine and any one of these cocktails are another fun part of having a day off — which this year is happily on a Friday.

Take a look at some new options below and you might want to head to the Quarry Farmers and Ranchers Market to pick up some of the fruits, juices and vegetables for your cook-out – or a bottle of Peach Shrub, made with fresh peaches, to add a deliciously different kick to a new cocktail.

Whatever your choice, celebrate with abandon — and drive with care!


ISummer Peach Shrub croppedce down summer with new Peach Shrub

This drink, The Texas TwoStep,  is based on a locally made product called Shrub Drinks. These are artisan vinegars with a long history, now making their way back into the craft beverage scene.

This Summer  Peach Shrub is now in production and available Sundays at the Quarry Market Farmers and Ranchers Market. Read more about Shrub Drinks, produced by Cynthia Guido and Cathy Tarasovic by clicking here.

The Texas Two Step

3/4 ounce Shrub Drink (Summer Peach Shrub)
1 1/2 ounce small batch bourbon whiskey
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass filled with crushed ice.

Photo and recipe courtesy Shrub Drinks

Herradura Tequila and Bohemia. Beer and tequila are San Antonio traditional favorites. Fortunately, Herradura Tequila and Bohemia beer have you covered on the cocktail front as well with these two Independence Day-themed cocktails.

July 4 Bohemia Fireworks cocktailBohemia Fireworks

2 strawberries
1.5 ounce Bohemia
1.5 ounce spiced rum
.5 ounces simple syrup
½  ounce lemon

Muddle the strawberries and add the rest of the ingredients. Shake all ingredients and pour over ice in a collins glass. Top with Bohemia beer



Raz White and BlueHerradura’s Red, White and Blue Berrries

1½ ounce Herradura Silver
2 ½ ounces coconut water
¼ ounce agave nectar
½ ounce lime juice

Place all ingredients in to a cocktail shaker filled with cubed ice. Shake hard and strain over crushed ice in to a tall glass. Garnish with raspberries and blueberries.




July 4 Cocktail Raz White and Blue


Raz, White & Blue
8 ounces Bud Light Lime Raz-Ber-Rita

Muddle blueberries and pineapple in a mixing glass. Add ice and pour in Bud Light Lime Raz-Ber-Rita. Stir, garnish with blueberries and pineapple and serve in a mason jar.


July 4 Cocktail CenturionCenturion Spritz

2 ounces Prosecco
.75 ounces Beefeater Gin
.5 ounces Cocchi Rosso
.5 ounces Cappelletti Aperitivo

Build in a rocks glass filled with ice
Garnish with half an orange wheel


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Time to Drink the Kawhi Koolaid, Spurs Fans

Time to Drink the Kawhi Koolaid, Spurs Fans

Spurs fans have seen know Kawhi Leonard earned his Most Valuable Player honor during the NBA championship. “Now everyone is drinking the Koolaid — the Kawhi Koolaid,” according to the folks at Nao Restaurant, 312 Pearl Parkway, which created the drink in his honor.

Kawhi Koolaid

Kawhi Koolaid

Those dining at the restaurant Wednesday evening will receive a free drink. Those just stopping by anytime can order one for $9. Or you can make one for yourself at home, using the following recipe.

Kawhi Koolaid

1 ½ ounces blanco tequila
½ ounces mezcal
½ ounce sugar syrup
½ ounce lemon juice
Pinch of aji amarillo Peruvian peppers
Pineapple leaves, for garnish

Combine tequila, mezcal, syrup, lemon juice and a pinch of pepper. Shake and strain over ice. Garnish with five leaves from the pineapple crown in honor of the San Antonio Spurs’ five championship victories.

Makes 1 cocktail.

From Nao Resaturant


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Brew Up Some Cocktail Fun

Brew Up Some Cocktail Fun

Beer cocktails have been around for years, but they’ve suddenly gained new popularity as cocktail fans expand their horizons on what can be used to make a rich, rewarding cocktail.

Here are two beer cocktails that should appear to anyone who likes a touch of fruit in their drink. So, don’t just get Dad a six-pack this Father’s Day. Give him new ways of tasting his beer. These two drinks use Bohemia and Indio, two of Mexico’s best.

Raspberry Bohemia

Raspberry Bohemia

Raspberry Bohemia  

1 ½ cans (12 ounces each) frozen raspberry juice concentrate, thawed
¾ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
6 bottles (12 ounces each) Bohemia beer or pilsner, chilled
Whole raspberries, for garnish, optional

Mix raspberry juice concentrate (undiluted) with lime juice in a pitcher. Refrigerate until serving time.

To serve, pour about ⅓ cup of the raspberry mixture into chilled beer glasses. Top with chilled Bohemia. Garnish with raspberries for a refreshing summer beverage.

Makes 6 drinks.

From Bohemia Beer

Sandia Mexicana

Sandia Mexicana

Sandia Mexicana (Mexican Watermelon)

3 cubic inches of watermelon
1 ounce mezcal
½ ounce agave nectar
½ ounce lime juice
1 Indio Beer or dark lager
Edible flower or a watermelon flag for garnish, optional

Muddle the watermelon in a shaker, add mezcal, agave and lime juice.

Shake hard with cubed ice and strain into a highball glass over ice.

Top with Indio beer and stir to combine, garnish with a watermelon flag or an edible flower.

Makes 1 cocktail.

From Indio Beer

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Brooklynite, Stay Golden, Party Bus Tours — Plus Tiki!

Brooklynite, Stay Golden, Party Bus Tours — Plus Tiki!

Hitch a free ride on a high-end party bus from The Brooklynite, 516 Brooklyn Ave., to Stay Golden Social House and ending at TacoLand before circling back to the Brooklynite this weekend and next.
Brooklynite shark busThis bar-hopping, progressive bus-ride offer is brought to customers by collaborators-bar owners Chris Erck and Jeret Pena. They’re looking to  celebrate the start of their venture, Stay Golden Social House, in style.
The free bus rides start this Friday and Saturday nights (May 30, 31) beginning at the Brooklynite, and next week (Friday, June 6 and Saturday, June 7). They’ll run from 8 p.m. until 1 a.m. and will leave each location every 10 minutes.  These high-end party buses have plenty of room and televisions too, to keep the party moving.
More fun at BKSA June 3
The first-ever BKSA Luau Party kicks off in great tiki-theme style on Tuesday, June 3, from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. at the Brooklynite, 316 Brooklyn Ave.
Tiki cocktail for BrooklyniteBe an early bird (at 9 sharp, not before!) because handmade floral leis will be passed out to the first 15 guests. Also, you might want to buy a new “Get Tiki With It” T-shirt.

Costumes are encouraged. Grab your bikinis, grass skirts, sunglasses, sombreros, and celebrate summer, tiki-style.

Tiki Tuesday drinks are on the bar all night long with killer music and stunning cocktails. And, food trucks will be outside to serve up sustenance.

For reservations, call (210) 444-0707.


Photos courtesy Dave Rangel






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Forget Your Martinis. Negroni Week Is Coming.

Forget Your Martinis. Negroni Week Is Coming.

If you have a taste for classic cocktails, it doesn’t get much better than a Negroni, an alchemical blend of equal parts gin, vermouth rosso and Campari with a twist of orange.

The Negroni

The Negroni

The history of this beauty has been questioned through the years, but the most popular story is that an Italian nobleman and rodeo cowboy, Count Negroni, ordered an Americano but with gin instead of soda. (For more, click here.)

The rest, as they say, is cocktail history. Until last year, that is. That’s when Imbibe magazine launched Negroni Week as a way of showcasing a classic cocktail while raising money for charity.

This year, hundreds of bars across the country and many in countries throughout the world have joined in the fun event, which runs June 2-8.

The rules are simple: Each participating bar will donate part of the proceeds from the sale of each Negroni to the charity of its choice.

In San Antonio, the list of participants includes:

  • Bar du Mon Ami, 4901 Broadway for San Antonio Pets Alive
  • Blue Box, 312 Pearl Parkway, for Ronald McDonald House of Central Texas
  • Brooklynite San Antonio Cocktail Parlor, 516 Brooklyn Ave. HeartGift Foundation
  • Bohanan’s Restaurant and Bar, 221 E. Houston St., for Chefs for Chefs San Antonio
  • Cured, 306 Pearl Parkway, for Team Gleason: Lets Put Our Heads Together and Find a Cure for ALS
  • Lüke San Antonio, 125 E. Houston St., for Little Patch Garden
  • The Esquire Tavern, 155 E. Commerce St., for The Children’s Shelter – San Antonio
  • Tribeca di Olmos, 4331 McCullough, for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

More might be added before the start. Click here for the fill list of participants.

In the interest of disclosure, I’ll admit I’m biased. The Negroni is my favorite, and I’ll be out there doing my part for charity.


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Plenty of Fun on Tap for San Antonio Beer Week

Plenty of Fun on Tap for San Antonio Beer Week

San Antonio Beer Week is underway with plenty of activities every day of the week and on every side of town.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn Monday, Ranger Creek will have special hours with a special cask of their version of the 2014 Beer Week collaboration brew and more. On Tuesday, the Friendly Spot will have a tap takeover of harder-to-find kegs. On Wednesday, Branchline will be at Hangar Tavern for a tasting of both its Evil Owl Amber and Shady Oak Blonde.

With the temperatures rising, all you need to know is that it’s cold, wet and welcome, no matter what style off beer you prefer.

For a full list of what’s happening, click here.

Drive responsibly.

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