Sip a Sparkling Viola Cocktail: Inspired by Viola Davis

Inspired by actress Viola Davis, the Sparkling Viola cocktail is a deliciously bubbly mix of violet and blackberry garnished with edible flowers and edible 24 K gold.

For the first time in a few years, I’ll be tuning into the 88th Academy Awards on Sunday. I’ll be watching because I really want to see Viola Davis with the award for Best Actress.

This amazing actress, wife and mother is getting her long-overdue star turn for her work in The Help, a movie about a group of maids in 1960s Mississippi.

She may seem like a late bloomer, but Viola Davis has been practicing her craft for years, giving deeply moving portrayals of people who were often in some kind of pain. One of my roles favorite was on the show “Without a Trace.” She played a mother grappling with the disappearance of her son, and the fact that TV news blasted the story of a missing blond girl, while ignoring her son’s plight.

Davis is making the most of her star turn with gorgeous awards show ensembles, which inspired the Polyvore set by Svud Je Holivud. Viola’s bubbly, dark and lovely and it inspired me to toast her with a special golden Oscar’s cocktail.

The viola, a dainty flower related to the violet and pansy, is one of my favorite edible flowers. They come in a range of gorgeous shades, and they have so much personality with markings that resemble a face. Candied or in cocktails, they have a sweet cucumber taste.

The Sparkling Viola
1 ounce Rothman & Winter Crème de Violette Liqueur
3/4 ounce blackberry syrup
4 ounces demi sec champagne or sparkling wine, chilled
1 fresh blackberry
1 organic viola flower
24K edible gold leaf flakes

Add the violet liqueur and blackberry syrup to a champagne flute. Top with the sparkling wine. Garnish with the blackberry. Lay the viola on top of the cocktail and top with a sprinkle of gold.

© By Maria C. Hunt aka The Bubbly Girl. All rights reserved.



Viola Davis

Make a Pink Rose Cocktail for Valentine’s Day

Floral rose notes, Pink Pigeon Rum and sparkling wine make for a romantic combination in my Pink Rose Cocktail - it's perfect for Valentine's Day.

There’s something incredibly alluring – and delicious – about the combination of roses, raspberries and sparkling wine. The flavor of roses and tart raspberries meld so well, and the bubbles are like an atomizer that bring the gorgeous scent floating out of the glass.

I’ve made plenty of rose and raspberry cocktails over the years, but when Valentine’s Day come around, I like to revisit it to see if I can invent anything new. I love the way the combination of rose and raspberry is a beautiful shade of pink and it’s intensely flavored enough to work with a variety of spirits.

(For some of my favorite pink wines, check out this Valentine’s Day rosé post on Williams-Sonoma’s Blender blog.)

This year I was inspired by the release of Pink Pigeon, a Madagascar vanilla-scented rum from the African island of Mauritius. I used a rose syrup in my cocktail, but it also works with a Tea Rose Petal Jam like this one from Harvest Song. I balanced the fruity and floral flavors in this cocktail with a splash of Campari. Like love, a good cocktail is bitter and sweet.

Pink Rose Cocktail
1 ounce Pink Pigeon Rum
3 raspberries, fresh or thawed frozen ones, plus one for garnish
1/2 ounce rose syrup (or 1 tsp. Tea Rose Petal Jam)
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1 teaspoon Campari
2 ounces sparkling wine, brut, brut rosé or blanc de noirs
fresh organic rose petal

Add the rum and raspberries to a cocktail shaker and muddle. Add the rose syrup (or jam), lemon juice and Campari. Shake until well-chilled, then double strain into a champagne coupe. Top with chilled sparkling wine, then garnish with a rose petal and the remaining raspberry.

Toast the Year of the Dragon with Iron Horse’s Chinese Cuvée

Iron Horse Chinese Cuvée was created to celebrate the Year of the Dragon.

It’s early February, and we’re about two weeks into the Year of the Dragon. According to the Chinese astrological charts, dragons are ambitious and dominant, passionate, creative and prefer to live by their own rules – know anyone like that? Many Chinese families plan to have children this year, because it’s the most auspicious year for a baby to be born.

Iron Horse Vineyards in Sonoma is especially excited about their new Year of the Dragon baby, a very limited bottling called the Chinese Cuvée. Created for export to China, only a lucky in the US few will get to taste this new wine.

Come toast the Year of the Dragon with Iron Horse President Joy Sterling and taste the new cuvée at a dim sum and party from 2 to 5 p.m., Saturday Feb. 11 at Press Club. After the party, head outside to view the Chinese New Year Parade, which dates back to 1860 and is one of the last illuminated Chinese New Year parades. Sponsored by Southwest Airlines, it starts at 5:30 p.m. and passes near Press Club.

Sterling says their winery has a historic connection to China. “The Clintons served Iron Horse at the State Dinner for President Jiang Zemin at the White House in 1997,” she said.

That history led Chinese wine importer Jaguar Wines to approach Iron Horse about making a special cuvée for export to China. The wine’s gold and red label has both English and Chinese and is adorned with a dragon on a fan at the bottle’s neck.

“My family and I are very proud that we have created a top quality American wine that is now an export success story,” Sterling says.

The number 8 is considered especially lucky in Chinese culture, so 8’s were attached to the Chinese Cuvée wherever possible. Of the 1,000 cases made, 880 were shipped to China and the remaining ones are available here in the U.S. The bottle sells for $98 – in numerology, the sum of the digits is 17, which in turn add up to make 8.

The wine is predominantly Pinot Noir from the 2007 vintage. Its dosage – the final mix of wine and sugar added to sparkling wine to determine the level of sweetness – was designed to make it perfect for pairing with soy, chilies and other savory flavors in Chinese cuisine.

“It never ceases to amaze me that four milliliters can so dramatically change a wine,” says Iron Horse Winemaker David Munksgard. “Dosage can affect color, aroma, weight, finish. It is like the seasoning in cooking. We had Chinese cuisine in mind with the Chinese Cuvée.”

So Fresh: Champagne Lanson San Francisco Launch

Enguerrand Baijot, Brand Director for Champagne Lanson, pouring Extra Age Brut     at a recent launch party at The Bubble Lounge in San Francisco.

“When you see a champagne ad, what does it show?” asks the Frenchman. He answers his own question. “A car, a pretty girl or some jewelry. But what does that have to do with what’s in the bottle?”

The Frenchman in question is Enguerrand Baijot, scion of the family that owns Champagne Lanson. He visited San Francisco this week for a tasting at The Bubble Lounge as part of the brand’s re-launch in the U.S. market.

He makes a good point; most champagne ads celebrate lifestyle, rather than flavor. The Lanson difference, Baijot says, is the way they emphasize their wine-making style which creates a uniquely fresh and bright tasting champagnes.

“Lanson is the only champagne that talks about what it going on inside the bottle,” Baijot says.

When it comes to flavor profile, it seems most champagnes are in one camp or another. They’re either quite austere, acidic and young tasting or they have the deep, toasty flavors that come with age.  A rare handful, including Lanson, manage to capture both of those characteristics.

Since the house was founded by Jean-Baptiste Lanson in 1837, the key to this balanced flavor profile has been a combination of long-aging and the house style called non-malo.

“Lanson is a champagne that sings,” says Baijot. “It’s about purity and freshness.”

It’s kind of wine-geeky, but malolactic fermentation is a natural process that happens in winemaking after the sugar in the grape juice has been converted into alcohol. Wine grapes are full of bright, fresh malic acid that’s similar to the flavor of a green apple. During malolactic fermentation or ML, malic acid is converted into lactic acid, a rounder softer acid found in yogurt, butter and cheese.

Lanson cools their cuvées before they’re bottled to become champagne, so that ML doesn’t happen. As the Champagne region gets warmer, which robs the grapes of their natural acidity, Baijot says he expects to see more champagne houses adopting their style.

Since Lanson champagnes are made without malolactic fermentation, they have a higher acidity that imparts a bright taste and makes them perfect for aging.

Lanson champagnes are predominantly made with Pinot Noir. And to make sure their wines have a delicious depth of flavor, all Lanson champagnes — from the entry-level NV Black Label to the top of the line Gold Label —  are aged much longer than is required. Black Label is aged for three years while the Gold Label, Extra-Age Brut and Extra-Age Rosé are all laid down at least five years.

The Lanson Extra-Age Rosé with its lovely cranberry notes, is poured by the glass at all Alain Ducasse restaurants around the world. The recently-released 2002 Gold Label —  a marvelous display of precociousness and maturity crafted exclusively from Grand Cru grapes – is  being poured for all United Airlines international first-class passengers.

This summer, look for a new Lanson Extra-Age Blanc de Blancs and a White Label Sec Champagne, a slightly sweeter cuvée that highlights the fresh fruit flavors in the wine. Baijot says it’s designed to be featured in fruit-based cocktails, like Raspberry Champagne Mojitos and Kir Royales.

It’s hard to leave a Lanson tasting without being a smarter champagne drinker.  But just in case, they share copies of The Little Black Book of Champagne, a concise guide to the champagne method, grapes and famous Bubbly Girls including Lily Bollinger, Marilyn Monroe and Kate Moss. Visit the L’Academie de Lanson website to order your complimentary copy of The Little Black Book of Champagne.