Serendipity in Athens

Just back from vaca in Greece (but as many of you know, my vacations always include a little bidness...we did do some wine stuff...more on that in later posts). I have been speaking with David Rosengarten, noted food writer and host of the TV show "Taste", and as we were coordinating schedules at breakfast in a NY Deli a couple of weeks ago, we realized we'd both be passing through the Athens airport at the same time. So we decided meet up with the folks from All About Greek Wine for a few Frappe's and Cappucino Frededo's.

Sharing a laugh is David on the left, then Sophia Perpera and George Athanas of AAGW, and me.


Infusion Cocktails!

As promised, I’ve got some wonderful new cocktail recipes to share with you—all of them part of entries in the OVAL vodka infusion contest. Read up on what the contest was all about in my last post.

Just one quick note—to give credit where credit is due, all the drink photos put up here were taken by the participants themselves.

Chipped Tooth Cooler by Blair Reynolds of Trader Tiki:

2 oz CHiP OVAL Vodka Infusion
1.5 oz Pineapple Juice
1/2 oz Lime
1/2 oz Ginger Liqueur (Domaine de Canton)
1/2 oz Falernum (Taylor's Velvet Falernum)
dash Fees O.F. Bitters
6 drops Herbsaint

Shake briefly with crushed ice, and pour into Double Rocks glass, add a splash of soda water and top with a float of 151 proof Demerara Rum.

The Howlin' Oval by SeanMike Whipkey of Scofflaw’s Den:

2 ounces jalapeno-infused OVAL vodka
1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
3/4 ounce orgeat

Shake over ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. The garnish is a thin slice of red jalapeno with a lime twist around it.

Rosemary Lemon Fizz by Stevi Deter of Two at the Most:

1.5 oz rosemary infused Oval vodka
0.5 oz limoncello
0.5 oz lemon juice
2 oz cream
soda water to top
cinnamon for garnish

Add all ingredients but soda water to shaking tin, dry shake for 1 minute, add ice, shake for at least two more minutes, strain into collins glass, top with soda water and a sprinkling of cinnamon.

Leafy Lilly by Matt Robold of Rumdood:

2 oz Cilantro/Peppercorn/Honey Oval Vodka
1 oz Lillet Blanc
.5 oz Lime
.5 oz Agave Nectar
2 dashes bitters

Shake with ice, strain into a cocktail glass.

Viennese Vixen by Cheri Loughlin of Intoxicologist:

2 ounces OVAL Vodka Lavender Infusion
1/2 ounce Hiram Walker Crème de Cassis Liqueur
1/4 ounce Fresh Lemon Juice
1 ounce Freixenet Brut Champagne
Lemon Peel Garnish

Slice a thin piece of lemon peel lengthwise over a cocktail glass and twist so the essential oils zest into the glass. Place peel along the edge for garnish. Place OVAL Vodka lavender infusion, Hiram Walker Crème de Cassis Liqueur and fresh lemon juice in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until chilled (approximately 10 to 12 seconds). Strain into cocktail glass. Top off with Brut Champagne.

The Inchworm by Ted Munat of Le Mixeur:

1 ½ oz. Calendula/Rose Hip infused OVAL vodka
½ oz. Dolin Blanc Vermouth
½ oz. lime juice
¼ oz. Saffron Syrup (recipe below)
Dash angostura bitters

Shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme.

Saffron Syrup (a la Anu Apte of Vessel in Seattle):

1 ¼ cups water
2 cups sugar
¼ cup rose water
Generous ¼ tsp. saffron strands
1 tablespoon water

Make a saffron extract by heating the tablespoon of water near boil. Crush the saffron strands between thumb and finger. Add the crushed saffron to hot water. Let is rest about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, add water and sugar in a heavy bottom pan. Heat till all the sugar is dissolved. Let it come to a boil. Ideally, reach 220 degrees. Add the Rose Water to the saffron extract, then add all to the sugar syrup. Cook about five minutes. Turn off heat and let it rest. After it cools it may be stored in a jar or bottle. Ted suggests leaving the saffron threads in the syrup.


OVAL Vodka's Homemade Infusion Contest

You might have seen my mention about OVAL vodka’s infusion contest in an earlier post and wondered what the heck I was talking about. I got some ‘splainin’ to do.

Earlier this summer, OVAL vodka asked several cocktail bloggers to accept the challenge of creating a unique infusion using a bottle of OVAL and whatever other ingredients they like. The prize? Two nights stay in New Orleans, during Tales of the Cocktail. Many bloggers jumped at the chance to experiment and create and have some of their expensive hobby paid for!

Participants were asked to submit an 8 oz. sample of their infusion, the infusion recipe, and a cocktail recipe that called for their infusion. We got a number of great entries (you’ll see several featured below) and a judging panel (Gabriel Szaszko of Cocktailnerd, Rick Stutz of Kaiser Penguin, and mixologist Chantal Tseng of the Tabard Inn, met at the Mixo House in New Orleans to taste all the submissions and rate them on the following criteria:

infusion aroma

infusion taste

infusion creativity

cocktail taste

cocktail balance

cocktail creativity

One entry stood out among the rest and the judges’ scores showed agreement that Marshall Fawley’s Thai Infusion was the clear winner. Marshall, a DC blogger at Scofflaw’s Den, clearly put a lot of hard work into the process of creating this complex infusion & will now reap the reward! Check out his entry:

Marshall Fawley’s Thai Infusion:

16 oz. OVAL vodka

1 9-inch stalk of Lemongrass, cut into small rounds

Peel of 2 limes

2 quarter-sized rounds of fresh ginger

1 2-inch cinnamon stick

4 cloves

Place everything in a sealed container and infuse for one week, shaking the container once a day. After one week, strain through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth.

And his fantastic cocktail….(seriously I love this one!)

Andaman Sun: (picture by Marshall Fawley above)

1 ½ oz. Thai-Infused OVAL vodka

1 ½ oz. Coconut water

1 oz. Piloncillo Syrup* (1 ½: 1 strength)

½ oz. fresh lime juice

¼ oz. Coconut milk

Shake all with ice and double strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.

*Substitutions for Piloncillo syrup- 1 oz. of Dark Brown Sugar Syrup (1 ½ : 1) or ¾ oz. simple syrup & ¼ oz. molasses.

Congratulations Marshall! You created the perfect cocktail for a creative infusion!

I want to thank everyone who participated in the contest, as well as Chris Stanley, who lent a great hand and made all the cocktails for the tasting. Check out a few featured infusion recipes below. I’ll also post featured cocktail recipes later this week.

Cilantro, Peppercorn & Honey Infusion Recipe by Matt Robold of Rumdood:

Steep a handful of cilantro leaves in a 750ml bottle of OVAL vodka for 24 hours.

Strain out the cilantro and then add ¼ cup of peppercorns (uncracked) to the vodka, along with ½ cup of honey and shake vigorously. Steep for 48 hours and then strain through cheesecloth and/or a coffee filter.

Jalapeño Infusion Recipe by SeanMike Whipkey of Scofflaw’s Den:

Slice up three jalapenos, removing the ribs and seeds. Place in a jar with twelve ounces of OVAL vodka. Let sit for twenty four hours, then strain out the slices of jalapeño.

Rosemary Infusion Recipe by Stevi Deter of Two at the Most:

Take leaves from 1 oz. fresh rosemary, add to 8 oz. OVAL vodka, and allow to infuse for one day. Double strain

to remove leaves.

Chip Infusion Recipe by Blair Reynolds of Trader Tiki: (This one’s extremely complex but great tasting-it was ranked #2 by our judging panel—check out the great cocktail recipe that accompanies it on my next post)

750ml OVAL Vodka

2 large brown coconuts

6 oz. Orange Blossom Honey

1 large Plantain

½ vanilla bean

Pinch demerara sugar

Pinch cinnamon

Drill holes in both coconuts, replace coconut water with OVAL vodka. Let sit for three days. Strain OVAL out of coconuts and into a glass container. Open and slice the coconut, being sure to remove the woody inner skin. Briefly chop the coconut and Plantain in a food processor until at a rough chop. Start a pan at medium temperature, and once at temp, add coconut and plantain. Throw sugar and cinnamon over the cocnut and plantain mix while toasting. Toast until coconut is golden brown. Let the coconut and plantains sit until cool (so as not to boil off the alcohol) then add toasted coconut & plantains and ½ a vanilla bean to the OVAl vodka. Let sit for three days.

Strain the vodka into a separate glass container. Add 6 oz. orange blossom honey and shake heartily. Strain through a Brita filter.

Lavender Infusion Recipe by Cheri Loughlin of The Intoxicologist:

1 ½ cup OVAL Vodka

2 teaspoons lavender flowers

Place 2 level teaspoons of lavender flowers and 1 ½ cup of OVAL vodka in a glass container with a lid that will seal. Allow to sit out of direct sun at room temperature for 20 hours. Strain lavender flowers from liquid and return to glass container.

Calendula & Rose Hip Infusion Recipe by Ted Munat of Le Mixeur:

750ml OVAL vodka

1 cup dried calendula

4 tbsp dried rose hips

Combine in a jar and let sit for 24 hours. Strain out calendula and rose hips.


Tales Teaser

For those of you who haven’t been following my footsteps on Twitter, I arrived in New Orleans yesterday for the Tales of the Cocktail festival. My trip didn’t start so well, after listening to the lady sitting next to me on the plane verbally assault our fellow travelers about their “flight etiquette” for a half an hour straight.

But things changed dramatically for the better once I was safely within the French Quarter limits. I’m staying at the Hotel Monteleone, a New Orleans landmark with a rich history. I’m so glad to be in the middle of all the action this year (last year we stayed in a hotel just outside the French Quarter).

After attending an awesome Welcome Reception put on by Beefeater gin, Steve & I headed over to the Mixo house, a Bed & Breakfast that's been completely rented out by a couple of crazy bloggers with an insane collection of booze, for the OVAL vodka infusion contest judging. There judges Gabriel Szaszko of Cocktailnerd, Rick Stutz of Kaiser Penguin, and Chantal Tseng, bartender at the Tabard Inn in Washington, DC, put these infusions (and their respective cocktails) to the test. I'd like to send a huge thanks their way, and I'd also like to extend a huge thanks to Chris Stanley, who prepared all the cocktails for judging (which, once you see the recipes you'll understand, is no small feat-especially when you're vying for bar space with dozens of cocktail afficianados).

In the coming days (ok, perhaps when I get back to the office) I'm going to write up a more detailed post and share some infusion recipes, cocktail recipes, and cocktail photos with you dear readers. But for now I'll have to leave it short and simple. Marshall Fawley of Scofflaw's Den took top prize with a creative Thai infusion and a delicious cocktail to boot! The judges were in complete agreement that his entry deserved the grand prize so Marshall will be having a portion of his stay in New Orleans paid for by OVAL vodka. Congratulations Marshall & well done!

More from New Orleans in the coming days...


Tales Time

Is it really that time again!? Believe it or not, tomorrow I’m headed back down to the Big Easy for Tales of the Cocktail, “the summer’s most spirited event.”

The weather has just started to not suck here in Connecticut (we’ve been hammered by serious rain, thunderstorms and yes, even a tornado for about the last month) and now I have to leave it behind for the sweltering sweaty mess that is New Orleans in July.

Ahhh, but I love it! And I’ve been training-daily two-mile runs in my snow suit followed by high-proof cocktails in a steam bath. I’ve prepared. I’m focused. I’m ready.

As I am a complete control freak (and may possibly suffer from OCD) I’ve created quite the detailed agenda for myself while in New Orleans. I won’t put all the little details down here but I will give a few of the highlights away. Here we go:


Beefeater Welcome Reception (come see me!!)

OVAL vodka Infusion contest judging

Possible tweet-up @ Bar Tonique (we’ll see if I last that long)


Breakfast @ Begue’s

How’s & Why’s of Cocktails Session

The CSOWG is taking ME to lunch (I feel special!)

Chemistry of Cocktails

Dinner @ Arnaud’s with the Intoxicologist herself


Using Blogs & Online Tools to Promote your Bar, Brand, or Career (Steve’s on the panel-come watch him preach Social Media Marketing and possibly embarrass me in a crowded room)

The Cocktails That Made Gin Famous

On The Fly Competition (this is going to be a fun one)

Caipirinha Competition (got to see what my friends at Leblon are up to)


Breakfast @ Brennan’s (‘nuff said)

The Three Amigos (heard it was hilarious last year)

Dinner @ NOLA with the Dood of Rum

And last but not least….The Spirit Awards (how can they possibly top last year’s host—Shooter McGavin!?)

So, if you’re a stalker and would like to know my every move in New Orleans (kidding…please don’t stalk me) or if you’re sad and alone at home and would like to live vicariously through me, check in here for daily (I’m optimistic) updates or follow me on Twitter. By the end of the week, you’ll already have your trip booked for next summer. Trust me.

Till then, Cheers!