Absinthe Cockails: Killing Me Softly for MxMo

Inspired by Death in the Afternoon, this modern champagne cocktail Death in the Afternoon teases with just a hint of absinthe.

Of course, we all know now that absinthe doesn’t cause blindness or madness or any of the other evils ascribed to this high-proof spirit back during the run up to Prohibition. But outside of cocktail geeks and urban bars with pretensions of authenticity, I don’t see this spirit becoming the next. big. thing.

A couple years ago on a visit to the Absinthe Museum of America in New Orleans which is excerpted in the slide show at the bottom of this post, a fellow visitor succinctly summed up the real problem with the Green Fairy. ” I love buying different bottles of absinthe, I just don’t like drinking it.” I have to admit I feel the same way. After I got over my fascination with Good & Plenty, licorice is something I like in small doses.

It was different back around the turn of the century in Europe where it became the drink of choice for creative types ranging from Oscar Wilde to Toulouse Lautrec, according to The Absinthe Buyer’s Guide. Anise flavored spirits are still popular and plentiful in Europe, the list at Licorice.org includes Pernod, pastis, ouzo, Sambucca, anisette and Pacharan I tasted in Spain’s Basque region.

It may have been in this licorice-loving context that Ernest Hemingway created his potent absinthe and champagne cocktail called Death in the Afternoon. His book Death in the Afternoon is considered one of the best books ever written about the deeper meaning behind bull-fighting in Spain. Hemingway borrowed the book name and contributed the drink made of a jigger of absinthe poured into a glass of champagne to a humorous collection of cocktail recipes by writers that was published in 1935, according to Absinthe Online.

I love the evocative name Death in the Afternoon; but since I think a little absinthe goes a long way, I fashioned Killing Me Softly, which I included in my book The Bubbly Bar. Besides being a tribute to the fantastic Roberta Flack song, it’s a delicate cocktail that leaves just a hint of licorice flavor lingering on the palate.

Killing Me Softly

1 sugar cube
1 teaspoon absinthe
1/2 ounce St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
4 ounces chilled brut champagne
1 thin slice lemon

Place the sugar cube in the bottom of a martini glass. Swirl the absinthe and elderflower liqueur in a cocktail shaker with ice to chill quickly and strain over the sugar cube. Top with the brut champagne. Lightly squeeze the lemon over the top of the drink and float on top.

Beautiful Bubbly: Images from Napa, Sonoma & Mendocino

I know the summer seems a very long way off right now. So just for fun, I created this slide show of some of the places and people I visited this summer on my Bubbly Bar book tour. Maybe these pictures of wineries in Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino will inspire your summer vacation plans this year. Cheers!

Grower Champagnes – Drink Up at Dr. Champagne’s Feb. 23 Dinner at Picco

Jean Vesselle's Oeil de Perdrix, a blanc de noirs champagne, is one of the grower wines featured at Dr. Champagne's dinner on Feb. 23 at Picco in Larkspur.
Jean Vesselle's Oeil de Perdrix, a blanc de noirs champagne, is one of the grower wines featured at Dr. Champagne's dinner on Feb. 23 at Picco in Larkspur.

With Valentine’s Day behind us, it means that the unofficial but traditional Bubbly Buying Season that started with Thanksgiving is over. But really, why does the fun have to stop? There are plenty of ways and reasons to enjoy sparkling wine and champagne, especially with events like these coming up. This year, expect to see lots of events highlighting grower champagnes which are made by Champenoise families who grow the grapes and make it into small quantities of finely crafted champagne.

Grower champagnes with names like Pierre Gimmonnet, Henri Billiot, Gratien and Vilmart are sought after in Europe and they’re what savvy sommeliers sip at home. Their reputation is growing here thanks to the work of people like Terry Theise of importer Michael Skurnik who believes this “fun family fizz” offers a much more interesting flavor experience than a mass-produced bubbly. This year the Independent Champagne & Sparkling Wine Invitational – first large U.S. event devoted to exploration of grower champagne – pops off from April 15-18, 2010 in New Orleans with classes, pairing dinners and tastings.

Here in California, Dr. Champagne aka Jerry Horn is presenting a champagne-soaked four course dinner showcasing grower wines at Picco in Larkspur on Feb. 23. The dinner created by chefs Bruce Hill and Chris Whaley starts with hamachi crudo with tarragon, blood orange and crispy onions paired with Egly-Ouriet Premier Cru Brut, a family owned winery with vineyards in Ambonnay and Bouzy, some of the best areas for pinot noir. Next comes poached lobster and caviar with another grower champagne, the Jean Vesselle Brut Oeil de Perdrix, an elegant wine blanc de noirs Dr. Champagne introduced me to. It has a hint of rosiness, like the eye of a partridge.

The dinner starts at 6:30 p.m. cost is $150 per person, plus tax and gratuity. To RSVP, call 415-924-0300 or visit the Picco web site to download a faxable reservation form.

Last Minute Ideas for Delicious Valentine’s Outings from San Diego to the Bay

Can't decide what to do for Valentine's Day? Let me play Cupid.
Can't decide what to do for Valentine's Day? Let me play Cupid.

Still pondering where to go for Valentine’s Day? Here are a few spots in Northern and Southern California planning some creative and romantic offerings.

The Bubble Lounge in San Francisco is pulling out all the stops with a jazz singer performing, a special menu of aphrodisiac foods and featured romantic cocktails by moi, The Bubbly Girl on Feb. 14. They’ve selected the Elderbubble (St. Germain, raspberry vodka and champagne) and the gorgeous Belle de Jour, a mix of Lillet Blond, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur and rosé champage created by Jackie Patterson and featured in my book Bubbly Bar. Couples can also order a bottle of Dosnon & Lepage Brut Rosé Champagne and have it sabered open – (by the way, there’s a web site devoted to the art of Saberage). Bubbly Lounge chefs are cooking up a sexy menu of sweet roasted beets with micro greens and goat cheese, caviar from the California Caviar Company served with blinis and creme fraiche, a seafood platter with oysters and shrimp and a heart-shaped Scharffen Berger Chocolate cake. The fun starts at 6 p.m. at 714 Montgomery St.; for reservations call 415.434-4204.

The Grand Del Mar, a five-star resort in northern San Diego, is offering a seductive set of food and wine experiences on Feb. 13 and 14 that are sure to spark a romance. On Feb. 13, enjoy a three course Chocolate and Red Wine Tasting menu from 4 to 7 p.m. in the Lobby Lounge for $25 per person; Grand Del Mar Sommelier Jesse Rodriguez will stop at your table and chat about the pairings. Or if you don’t feel like chatting, pick one of the cozy corners of the Lobby Lounge, and sip Another Day In Paradise a cocktail for two featuring rose petal and raspberry infused vodka. Strawberry Chocolate Decadence, a dessert with layers of strawberry confit and dark chocolate, is also available for $19 paired with the sparkling red wine Rosa Regale Brachetto d’Acqui[/caption]

If you’re craving a total culinary experience, call 858.314.1900 and make a reservation for Executive Chef William Bradley’s lavish six-course Valentine’s dinner in Addison’s dining room. The chef — a very happy newlywed — is sure to be cooking with his heart on his sleeve; seductive courses include baby sea scallops, roasted endive with caramelized pears, butter-baked salmon and pistachio nougatine with honey comb gelato. The dinner is $125 per person, or $185 per person with wine pairings plus gratuities, but hey, Valentine’s Day only comes once a year. Meanwhile at Amaya, Chef Camron Woods’ tempting dishes include winter mushroom consomme with truffled ravioli, seared Diver scallops with parsnip puree and golden raisins, and a limoncello semifreddo. That repast is $110 per person or $155 with wine pairings, plus gratuity. For reservations, call 858.314.2727

Real Aphrodisiacs for Valentine’s Day Drinks: Passionate Pomegranate

Not only does the pomegranate suggest fertility, it also boosts libido.
Not only does the pomegranate suggest fertility, it also boosts libido.

A red orb with all those juicy seeds inside, a pomegranate just suggests fertility and promise. It’s thought to be the tempting forbidden fruit that seduced Adam and Eve in the Bible. In the Greek myth, Persephone was forced to spend half the year in the Underworld after she was tricked into eating a few pomegranate seeds during a visit to Hades. All in all, these myths make the pomegranate a pretty fascinating and tasty fruit.

We’ve all gotten word that pomegranates are chock full of healthy antioxidants, vitamins and minerals which scientific studies show can help reduce wrinkles, lower blood pressure and prevent heart disease. Pomegranate is also a great source of folic acid, which is an important nutrient for pregnant women. If you’re trying to get pregnant, it turns out pomegranate can help in that department too. A researcher at the University of California found that pomegranate is good for men with erectile dysfunction and prostate health. And a study at the University of Sussex (another sex study from the UK, hmmm) found that drinking pomegranate juice increases the libido in women and even more so in men.


Featured on San Diego Fox 5 my cocktail called Kismet – which means fate – is sure to get something started with this combo of pomegranate, passion fruit and ginger which is great or heating things up. To make a non-alcoholic version, substitute pomegranate juice for the Pama, ginger juice for the ginger liqueur and sparkling water for the wine. Kismet was one of the romance enhancing cocktails I featured on San Diego Fox 5 this morning.

With tangy pomegranate, passion fruit juice and ginger in the Kismet Cocktail, it's sure to stir something up.
With tangy pomegranate, passion fruit juice and ginger in the Kismet Cocktail, it's sure to stir something up.


1 ounce Pama pomegranate liqueur
1-1/2 ounces passion fruit-orange juice
1/2 ounce ginger liqueur
3 ounces sparkling wine
3 pomegranate seeds

Add Pama pomegranate liqueur, passion-fruit juice and ginger liqueur to a champagne flute. Top with chilled sparkling wined. Garnish with the pomegranate seeds.


Real Aphrodisiacs for Valentine’s Day Drinks: A Taste of Honey

Besides being sticky and sweet, honey is endowed with vitamins and minerals that help humans produce sex hormones. (Courtesy Photo)
Besides being sticky and sweet, honey is endowed with vitamins and minerals that help humans produce sex hormones. (Courtesy Photo)

It’s so easy to take honey for granted: sweet, cloying and sticky stuff without much personality. But it’s always been one of those foods, along with strawberries and whipped cream that shall we say has plenty of sex appeal.

The term honeymoon comes from the Viking tradition of leaving newlyweds alone for a month to get to know each other. They were encouraged to drink lots of mead – wine made from fermented honey – as it was considered an aphrodisiac. Even today, Indian bridegrooms are given honey on their wedding night to increase their stamina.

It turns out honey contains boron, a trace mineral that’s important for a number of different body functions including hormone production. Boron helps increase estrogen levels in women as well as testosterone levels in men and women, which is important for libido. Honey also contains B vitamins which play a role in estrogen production and another natural substance called chrysin that helps keep testosterone levels constant. For more details, read up on boron at Organic Facts.net and Gynecomastia.org

But enough of all that. Now that you know what’s in it, here’s a charming little cocktail I created that makes good use of honey and damiana extract, another natural aphrodisiac found in the supplement aisle at Whole Foods.

The Bee Charmer tempts with honey, lemon, lavender and a bit of bubbly.
The Bee Charmer tempts with honey, lemon, lavender and a bit of bubbly.

The Bee Charmer

small section of honeycomb
1-1/2 ounces Barenjager Honey Liqueur
1/2 ounce bourbon whiskey
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce egg white – the real thing, not pasteurized
pinch dried lavender (optional)
2 drops damiana
2-3 ounces brut sparkling wine or champagne

Put the honeycomb in the bottom of a champagne coupe or small cocktail glass. Add the honey liqueur, bourbon, lemon juice, egg white an lavender if using and damiana to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake hard until will chilled and frothy. Add the bubbly to the coupe, then strain the contents of the shaker into the glass. Garnish with a couple lavender blossoms.