The Summer Rain Swizzle: Reyka Vodka, Creme de Violette, watermelon, mint, Angostura

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The Summer Rain Swizzle: Reyka Vodka, Creme de Violette, watermelon, mint, Angostura

Step One: Clean out the gutters. Literally.

Cleaning out the gutters has been on my mind for a while now. I don’t really know why, though. And I’m not being metaphorical here. It’s not a euphemism for an enema or anything like that. I’m talking about actually, literally, getting up there and cleaning out my gutters. Our gutters don’t do a damn thing, and they’re falling off the house anyway, but I still have to clean them every now and then. And the roof was covered in pine needles, so I figured it was time to get up there.

After lunch, though, I needed a 30-minute quiet time. You know, the thing you make your youngsters have when they’re supposed to be napping. After my short snooze, I jumped up, grabbed the ladder and climbed on the roof with a broom in hand.

No sooner had I begun sweeping off my roof then the rain started. Wait, though. Those of you who are not in Houston need to realize that it hasn’t rained in over a month. Just 98 degree hell. Yet today, the day I decide to get on the roof and clean my gutters, the rain falls. Heavy.

Oh well, that’s the hand I’m dealt. So I cleaned my gutters in the rain and swept the entire roof trying not to slip off and bust my ass.

And it felt good.

After a shower, though, it was time for a cocktail.

Time for a swizzle.

Step Two: The Summer Rain Swizzle Recipe

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After a hot summer rain, there’s nothing better than a swizzle

First, you need watermelon juice. All we do it put a bunch of watermelon in a blender, and voila! Watermelon juice. Tasty on its own, sure, but also delicious in cocktails.

To make the Summer Rain Swizzle cocktail, muddle quite a few mint leaves. Basically, as much as you think the glass can handle. Then add about half a glass of crushed ice. To that, add

  • 1 1/2 ounces Reyka Vodka
  • 2 1/2 ounces watermelon juice
  • 1/2 ounce Creme de Violette

Then fill up the rest of the way with crushed ice and add about five to ten dashes of Angostura bitters, and garnish with another mint sprig.

Easy breezy, and it goes down easy, too. My kind of recipe.

Spirit Review: Herradura’s Ultra Anejo and the Herradura Colección de la Casa

IMG_2370The Herradura Ultra Anejo Tequila

Herradura’s Ultra Anejo is unlike any other tequila I’ve had. It is a blend of extra anejo tequila (aged 49 months) with anejo, which is a bit younger. Then they put it through a charcoal filter so it’s clear like a blanco.

Why do they filter it?

Who cares? It tastes amazing! At $70 a bottle, this is not mixing stuff. This is the stuff you serve to your father-in-law after Thanksgiving dinner. This is the stuff you sip with a Cuban cigar in the other hand. This is the stuff you savor and hide from your friends who want to do shots. If I see anyone with a lime and salt in one hand a shot of Herradura Ultra Anejo in the other, I will slap the drink out of their hand.

Tis better to throw good tequila on the ground than to waste it on swine, as the good book says.

Don’t think this stuff tastes like regular tequila, though. It’s a sweet, vanilla-almond bomb. According to the press release from last year, they add a bit of agave nectar before bottling, which may be why it’s so sweet.

In fact, it has none of the typical, vegetal tequila characteristics. It has more in common with an aged rum than it does with tequila.

The finish is ultra smooth, with nary a hint of burn in sight.

The Herradura Coleccion de la Casa Tequila

IMG_2371The unaged tequila in Herradura’s newest Coleccion de la Casa is an unaged spirit bottled straight from the still at 110 proof. I, for one, have never seen a tequila with that high of a proof content.

Compare it to the Ultra Anejo, and the two are night and day. This one is much harsher, but not as much as you might think considering the lack of maturation and the higher proof.

It is still absolutely drinkable on its own, or perhaps just slightly chilled.

This Coleccion de la Casa is meant to highlight the agave and only the agave. Nothing from the barrel. Nothing filtered out. Just the pure agave spirit.

Unlike an aged tequila, this one keeps its pepper vegetable quality. The finish reminds me of roasted peppers.

If you know someone who loves unaged tequila, then this bottle’s for them. At $90, it’s a special bottle. Keep it, too, away from the margarita lovers. Don’t let them be fooled into thinking this is just another blanco.

The Herb Alpert cocktail: mezcal, tequila, lime, oregano, jalapeno

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The Herb Alpert Cocktail from Imbibe Magazine, created by Phil Ward of Mayahuel.

I was just telling my wife today that I need to find a use for the overgrown oregano plant that is trying to take over my herb garden. Even my mint can’t seem to fight it.

Enter the new issue of Imbibe Magazine, which features Phil Ward’s drink the Herb Alpert, one of the popular drinks at his New York establishment (the other one!) Mayahuel.

If, like me, you have an overgrown oregano plant and need to know what to do with it besides spaghetti sauces, here’s your drink. Or if you bought some to make spaghetti sauce with and have some leftover, here’s your solution. Either way, it’s fantastic.

How to make the Herb Alpert

Chill your coupe, and then chop about half of a jalapeno, seeds and all. Add the leaves from about three sprigs of oregano. Muddle those.

Then add

  • 1 oz Montelobos (or any other smokey, full-flavored mezcal)
  • 1 oz Milagro tequila blanco (or any other blanco tequila)
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1/2 oz rich simple syrup

Shake well with ice. Really well. Then double-strain into your coupe and float an oregano leaf on top.

The original recipe calls for infusing the jalapeno into the tequila, but I find I can get a similar effect from simply muddling it.

The original also calls for 8 oregano leaves. I used about four times that much. Of course, my oregano leaves are small, but I found I needed more to make an impression on the drink. Experiment with it until you find your taste.

Why the name Herb Alpert?

The name has three meanings, methinks.

First, there’s the herb in Herb. Not that herb. The oregano herb. Literally. Oregano.

But then there’s the play on the name itself. Herb Alpert. The musician.

And third, there’s the play on the  music of Herb Alpert. He has the Tijuana Brass, after all, and this drink features both tequila and mezcal. Sure, it’s made in New York City, but Herb Alpert was from L.A., so it matters nothing.

Listen to Whipped Cream and Other Delights, and make yourself an herbal Herb Alpert.

Father’s Day Guide 2016–It’s June 19, remember?

The Balvenie Tun 1509 Batch 2 Bottle 750ml
Nothing compares to the Balvenie Tun 1509

In case you don’t remember, Father’s Day is coming up on June 19, 2016. That’s Sunday, for those of you who don’t know your made-up holidays.

Normally, I would be against things like Father’s Day. But you know what, I’m a father, and it’s nice to have one day where you may get to do what your kids want to do for you. Sheesh. Is it still all about the kids?

Anyway, this year, I figure I will give you some advice.

What to give your father on Father’s Day

Give him liquor. Trust me here. In fact, don’t just give him liquor. Give him whiskey. Or whisky. Whichever.

The Scotch to buy

If he’s a scotch man, you can’t go wrong with the the Balvenie Tun 1509, second batch, a selection of 32 of the finest casks – 23 traditional American oak casks and nine European oak sherry casks – hand-selected by Malt Master David Stewart from the distillery’s precious aged stocks. All were transferred to Tun 1509, which sits in The Balvenie’s Warehouse 24, for several months before bottling. This is a rare interpretation of the marrying process and allows the different whiskies to come together to create a unique expression of The Balvenie that is greater than the sum of its constituent parts.

In case you’re not convinced, I’ve tried it. It’s good. It’s the stuff Anthony Bourdain called “nectar of the gods.” He’s right. At $350 a bottle, I admit it’s a splurge. And here’s a tip. That $350 is only worth it if he’s willing to crack it open while you’re there, and you can share a dram together. Perhaps with a cigar.

Good times.

Monkey Shoulder Bottle
If $350 for the Balvenie Tun 1509 is too much for you, get him a bottle of Monkey Shoulder. Almost as good, and 1/10th the price.

If $350 isn’t your style, I would go for a bottle of Monkey Shoulder. Those in the know know Monkey Shoulder. For $32, you can’t go wrong. It’s blended, yes, but it’s a blend of three of finest malts out there. I love this stuff, and I always keep a bottle on hand. With single malts, I will always try something new, but when it comes to my everyday dram, I always go for Monkey Shoulder.

The bourbon or rye to buy

Hudson Maple RyeI recommend Hudson whiskey. Everything they make is fantastic, but I especially like their Manhattan Rye or their Four Grain Bourbon. Both are excellent, although the Four Grain Bourbon is not available in 750mL. It’s still only in 350mL, which may be a deal breaker. Go for the Baby Bourbon, instead. It’s great, too.

Both the Baby Bourbon and the Manhattan Rye are $52 for the 750 mL bottles.

What to eat on Father’s Day

Sure, you could take your father to an overcrowded, overpriced brunch place on Father’s Day, but if I know your father, he doesn’t really want that. It’s a hassle, and it’s not that fun, and the food is probably disappointing anyway.

BB Butchers food4877

Instead, grill for him. These grill packages from BB Butchers look downright decadent. If I opened a package that looked like that, I would about melt. Especially if I got to grill it. Or better yet, one of my daughters grilled it for me.

Okay, so my daughters aren’t old enough to buy liquor for me or grill for me. But still, my wife could pretend.

Spirit Review: Milagro Tequila

Tequila MilagroCore Silver Core AnejoCore Reposado

I may not be a tequila expert, but I know what I like, and the Milagro Margarita made by Pico’s in Upper Kirby is pretty damn good. Not too sweet, but just enough. More lime than sweet, sour than sugar. Kind of like me.

I tend to prefer the blanco tequilas. To me, they taste the most like what is quintessential tequila. When they start aging them for years, they lose much of what makes them taste like tequila in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong. I love tequila that’s been aged, too. It’s good stuff. But it doesn’t have the rich, agave, vegetal quality that makes something taste like tequila.

Milagro makes a perfect margarita, but the blanco tastes good on its own, as well. It’s one of those rare spirits that is good enough to drink straight yet priced at $36, so I don’t mind mixing with it. And it will make a damn fine Margarita. Or Paloma.

If you read about Milagro online, you will find a lot of reviews that say that it’s distilled three times. And people fault them for it. Some say it’s a good thing because it takes out the harsh tequila flavor, but others want that harsh tequila flavor. “If you can’t do it right the first two times,” these critics say, “then you have to do it three times.”

But it isn’t true. Accoring to Moy Guindi, one of the founding owners of Milagro, they only distill it twice. There was a brief time, he said, when they were experimenting with pot stills and column stills that they continued to distill twice in the pot still before moving it to the column still, but they ceased doing that years ago, and it was only for a brief time, anyway. Now they distill it in the pot still first to bring out the agave flavor before moving it to the column still to remove all of the unwanted flavors that don’t highlight the agave itself.

Also, another note, they still roast the agave in brick ovens, not in the giant stainless steel autoclaves. They may not be a small, artisanal operation, but they are attempting to make a tequila that tastes like tequila.

And they’re doing a fine job with it.

The Barnum (was Right) Cocktail: gin, apricot liqueur, lemon, Angostura bitters

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The Barnum (was Right) Cocktail: Gin, apricot liqueur, lemon, Angostura bitters

For this one, I turned back to Ted Haigh (AKA Dr. Cocktail)’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. It had such a great name that I just couldn’t resist.

And it uses apricot liqueur, too. The only other thing I have used that in is Fish House Punch. So I was happy to have another use for it.

How to make the Barnum (was Right) Cocktail

To make the Barnum (was Right) Cocktail, combine with ice:

shake well, and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a lemon twist.

It’s not often that I turn to the older cocktails. For the most part, they seem all played out. The really good ones have been adopted as modern drinks and no longer seem foreign. The other ones, well, there’s a reason they were forgotten.

But this one is good! Really good. Notice that there’s no simple syrup. That’s because there’s an entire ounce of apricot liqueur, which really shines in the drink. I would say that it’s more of an apricot drink than anything else. It just comes through so fruitily.

So my temporal bias against the past may be misplaced, I admit. The Barnum deserves a seat at the bar.

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Don’t let anyone fool you: Barnum was right. I’ll part with my money for this cocktail, any day.

The Cantaloupe Smash! cocktail: Cantaloupe, rum, Aperol, lime, bitters

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The Cantaloupe Smash with rum, Aperol, lime, bitters, and rosemary.

My parents always had a garden when I was little, but they only grew a few things: tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and cantaloupe.

We ate a ton of cantaloupe when I was a kid.

And I still love cantaloupe! It’s one of the few fruits that I truly enjoy. The rest of them are just too sweet, but cantaloupe is right there in the middle. It’s not too sweet, and it’s firm, and it feels good in the mouth.

So when Kroger had them for 99 cents each, I knew it was time to try a Cantaloupe Smash.

The Cantaloupe Smash Cocktail Recipe

Take a bit of cantaloupe, and put it in the bottom of a mixing glass. About four cubes of the stuff.

And now smash it.

Think Hulk here.

From Hollywood Nuts! at

Then add to the mixing glass:

  • 1 1/2 oz Flor de Cana white rum
  • 1 oz Aperol
  • 1/2 oz lime
  • 1/4 oz simple syrup
  • 10 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake well with ice, and strain over crushed ice in a tall glass. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

You can try it without the rosemary, of course, but I highly recommend the combination. The rosemary and the cantaloupe work great together.

I admit, though, that this isn’t the best drink I have ever come up with it. I tried of ton of different stuff, and cantaloupe just doesn’t lend itself to cocktails that well. It’s the lack of sweetness that doesn’t work that well, I think. Therefore, I had to add simple syrup.

But it’s still good, and the group I made them for enjoyed them, or at least they told me they did. And when cantaloupe is on sale for $1 again, you can bet I will be experimenting again.

Hmm, maybe cantaloupe mixed with pineapple juice?

Not sure about that, either.

The El Jimador Texas Margarita Trail event and how to make a true Margarita

Sometimes you can keep it simple!
The real deal Margarita: el Jimador tequila, triple sec, lime, agave

El Jimador Tequila and the Houston Press searched throughout Houston looking for the best Margarita in town. And they threw a party to celebrate it.

A huge, kick-ass party.

With lots of tequila.

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetThe Texas Margarita Trail finale happened on May 3, 2016 at Winter Street Studios in Houston, and there were five featured margaritas. Each one was different, but they all featured el Jimador tequila and some even held the lime.

How make a traditional Margarita

But first, let’s make a real Margarita. A traditional Margarita with four ingredients: tequila, lime, triple sec, agave syrup.

All you have to do is combine the four. Me, I like the following proportions:

  • 1 1/2 oz blanco tequila (el Jimador is a great choice)
  • 1 oz triple sec (you can use Cointreau, but I think the choice of triple sec doesn’t matter that much)
  • 3/4 oz lime
  • 1/4 oz agave syrup

Build in a glass with ice that has a salted rim.


But sometimes you want something different. That’s why El Jimador went on their quest.

The Jolly Jimador from El Big Bad

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetFirst, there was the Jolly Jimador from El Big Bad, a tequila bar and restaurant in downtown Houston that has a tequila elevator with all of their infused tequilas on display. I admit I have never been there, but I want to take a ride on that elevator pretty badly.

The Jolly Jimador, created by Zachary McClendo, included

  • 1 1/2 oz El Jimador Reposado
  • 1/2 oz fresh strawberry puree
  • 1/4 oz agave nectar
  • topped with ginger beer

It was good. The ginger didn’t come through that strongly, for it was just a splash of it, but it gave it a different texture from the rest, more of an effervescence.

The Jim Jim Miel from La Grange

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetMatt Ainsworth from La Grange restaurant in Montrose featured ginger and vanilla bean in his take on the Margarita:

  • 1 1/2 oz El Jimador Silver Tequila
  • 1 oz lime
  • 1/2 oz raw honey
  • 2 slices muddled fresh ginger
  • 1/4 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • splash of apple cider

Tasty. I hoped the vanilla bean would be stronger, but all of the flavors came together nicely.

The Tuscan Sun from Batanga

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Anthony Taye of Batanga in downtown Houston made a traditional Margarita but then included a bit of bitters and some wine:


  • 1 1/2 oz El Jimador Silver
  • 1/2 oz lemon
  • splash of simple syrup
  • dash of Angostura bitters
  • layered with birbet (a red, sweet, sparkling wine)

In the little taste I had, I couldn’t place the wine or the bitters, though. I think this is a drink that has to be experienced in the larger quantity. Otherwise, the nuances get lost.

The Flor de Menta Margarita from Pistoleros

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Joel Luna’s For de Menta Margarita was one of my favorites. Luna is from Pistolero’s in Montrose, and, while I’ve never been there, I really want to go after trying his Flor de Menta. If all of their drinks are this good, we should meet there for happy hour.


To make one, combine

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  • 1/2 oz triple sec
  • 2 dashes peach bitters
  • muddled mint
  • 1/4 oz lime juice
  • fill with sour (lime and syrup)
  • float hibiscus liqueur on top

It was the hibiscus and the peach that made this one stand out.

Mango Habanero Margarita from La Fisheria

Steven Rodriquez-Ferreira’s Mango Habanero Margarita was the night’s winner. Of La Fisheria retaurant in downtown Houston, Rodriquez-Ferreira combined everyone’s two favorite things: fruit and spice. Man, they worked perfectly together. I would drink this thing all night.

To make your own:

  • muddle cucumber, cherry, and habanero
  • 1 1/2 oz El Jimador
  • 1 oz mango puree
  • 1/2 oz tamarindo juice
  • splash of lime
  • 1/2 oz orange liqueur

I wouldn’t hesitate to try each of these at the restaurants themselves. Let’s just hope they include them on their menus.

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The Tastemaker Awards Event, May 18, Houston, Texas

Tastemaker Awards 2016 - SponsorsTequila HerraduraIf you’re reading this blog, and you don’t know about the Culturemap Tastemaker Awards sponsored by Tequila Herradura next week, you must not be from Houston. This is THE foodie party of the year.

Where else can you try beverages from

and food from

all for $40 to $60 for a ticket?

Nowhere, that’s where.

So go right now to the Tastemaker website and order your tickets.

And I will see you there. After all, all the cools kids will be there.

Houston Big Texas Beer Fest on May 21, 2016

Unfortunately, my wife is going out of town to go to a graduation on May 21. Otherwise, I would totally be at NRG ready to drink good beer at the Houston Big Texas Beer Fest!

If you’re in town, you should go. And if you go, send me a report. I want to know what crazy, funky beer you tried.


First Houston Big Texas Beer Fest set for May 21, 2016

Houston, TX – May 8, 2016 – The Big Texas Beer Fest (BTBF) takes its festival on the road for the first time, landing in Houston at NRG Center on May 21. After 5 consecutively sold out festivals in North Texas, the festival has chosen to expand to Houston as its first city outside North Texas. The event was first founded in 2012, and has raised over $45,000 for the North Texas Food Bank since inception. The event expects to draw 3-5,000 attendees in its inaugural run in Houston. Expected to attract 70+ breweries with 300+ beers to sample, BTBF always has unique selections that you can’t normally find at your neighborhood bar or bottle shop.

One of the festival organizers, Chad Montgomery, co-founder of the festival was asked why Houston was chosen. “We like a lot of what is going on in the Houston beer and food scene. There are some really innovative things happening, and we wanted to try and be part of that community which connects brewers, small businesses and consumers together in a unique indoor/outdoor GABF-style festival. We have sold out all of our events in north Texas, and hope to do the same in Houston.”

The success from the first five festivals has helped garnered national attention from various publications, and continues to draw in more people from out of state. Montgomery says, “we had people from 4 different countries, and over 35 states attending this year’s North Texas event. It’s become somewhat of a destination.” Chad’s wife and event co-founder Nellie added, “My favorite thing about our event is making connections between brewers and other vendors. When we see local breweries do collaboration beers, or a local brewery teaming up with a coffee vendor for instance, that’s really exciting for us.”

In addition to award-winning beers from all over the world, the festival will also feature 9 of Houston’s best food trucks including Wokker TX Ranger, the Waffle Bus, Cousins Lobster and more. When asked about the music, Chad added, “we always try to pick out bands that are good beer-drinking music. We’ve always liked Shotgun Friday, and those guys are making the trip down to Houston also.” In addition, Matt Tedder from The Voice will headline, and The Roomsounds will kick things off in the outdoor food and music pavilion.

As always, a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales will benefit a local charity, in this case the Houston Food Bank. Nellie noted, “while everyone is gathering info about craft beer, they should know they’re also helping feed hungry north Texans. My other favorite aspect of this event is that we can do some good, while everyone has a great time.” Tickets for the festival are on sale now at VIP tickets are very limited at this point, but can still be had. General admission tickets are $39 and VIP for $65. General Admission tickets will also be available at the door for $50. VIP tickets enable attendees to gain entrance to the event one hour early to enjoy all the rare and unique beers with minimal lines.

The festival’s hours are Saturday from 2:00-6:30pm. The VIP session is set to begin at 1pm. Parking will be available at NRG Park for $12, but the Montgomery’s recommend people use the METRORail Red Line, or use a ridesharing partner like Uber or Lyft. The METRORail Red Line has a stop at NRG Park, dropping attendees a quick jaunt away from the venue.

For all of the details, including participating breweries, vendors, and much more, visit the official event website. To schedule an interview with Chad or Nellie Montgomery, send an email or reach out via phone at the contact details below.

Chad Montgomery, Co-Founder

Big Texas Beer Fest 214-531-4001

Cocktails, Spirits, Bars, and Beer in Houston and all over Texas