Last Minute Father’s Day Gift Guide

You’re the reason your dad drinks, so you might as well get him what he wants for Father’s Day.

fathers day



There’s even more Japanese influence in the American bar scene now than there was among the Impressionists, so try starting with one of these new, fantastic (yet affordable enough to not make him ask why you are still living in his basement rent-free) bottles of whiskey from the Land of the Rising Sun.

Kikori: named after the Japanese legend of the woodsman (how’s that for a manly dad gift?), Kikori is actually a rice-based spirit, aged in oak for 3+ years like traditional whiskies, and is extremely easy-drinking. A number of cocktail recipes I’ve seen are swapping it out for tequila and even vodka, so he can look tough without upsetting his delicate palate.

Suntory Toki: breaking with tradition, Suntory’s chief blender crafted Toki based not on the usual Yamazaki malts, but focused on their Hakushu single malt with a hearty dose of Chita grain whiskey. It’s additionally unconventional for featuring the boldly flavored grain whiskey, which is usually more of a filler in Japanese blends, so this makes a nice gift for you father, a trailblazer in his day, or perhaps among the other members of his homeowner association.

Hibiki Harmony: a master blend of more than ten different whiskies – perhaps the mellow flavor, warm color, enchanting faceted bottle and overtly calming name will finally get your old man chill out about the Mets.


I don’t know what kind of wine your dad likes to drink; he’s picky. You’re tired of hearing him complain that he never wants to open a bottle of wine anymore, now that he’s the only one drinking it, and since your second-quarter bonus check just came in, check out a Coravin. The impressive nature of the gift will make up for the fact that on Sunday you’ll be handing him a printout of the shipping details.


Yeah, how about you take your dad out for a beer? You never stop by any more and when you do, the kids are always running roughshod over you both, so just take a couple hours and bring him to his favorite pub for a couple of cold ones. He’d like that.

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I was perplexed by a couple of one-off events that Krug hosted at Tales of the Cocktail last year, but forgot about it until I ran across the photos that I took. Their brand ambassadors invited out a bunch of bartender buddies out on the company dime to eat oysters and pig meat at good, but downscale restaurants while draining cases of expensive champagne.

The idea behind the campaign was to convince people that it’s a great idea to crack open a few $200 bottles of bubbly with your buddies while you throw back a dozen miyagis or gnaw on some pig feet. Not sure who gave this one the green light, but it made for some great afternoons even if the message was a bit hard to swallow.

Edit (5/19): Apparently I am not the only one noticing Krug’s misguided marketing. The day after I posted this piece, this hit the news.

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Vice Cream #1: Cherry Chocolate Port

I wrote this in July of 2009, right after buying an ice cream maker, and just discovered that I never posted it. To this day, I have only ever used my ice cream maker to freeze alcoholic treats.


Cherry Chocolate Port Ice Cream

1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon corn starch
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups milk, scalded
1 1/2 cups cream, cold
1/2 vanilla bean (about 2 inches), scraped
3/4 cup dried bing cherries, reconstituted in port
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Stir together sugar and starch and whisk in egg yolk, then milk.  Over medium heat, stirring constantly, bring to a boil and continue stirring for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and pour into a chilled bowl, stir in vanilla scrapings, cover and chill.  Once cold, whisk in cream and put in ice cream maker (mine took 20 minutes, but follow the instructions on your own), and then stir in cherries and chocolate before covering and putting in the freezer to harden.

Notes:  scalding milk is simply bringing it briefly to a boil, which will cause solids to separate from the milk and stick to the pan, so they are left behind when you pour off the milk.  To make the cherries, put a cup of dried bing cherries in a cup of good port and let them sit, covered at room temperature for a few days.

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Visiting Vintners at Press Club

I rarely leave San Francisco, except by plane, and the occasional trek north to wine country, so being able to get the tasting room experience without actually leaving the city would be a blessing.

Press Club has answered my lazy cry (really more of a grumble), presenting their series of Visiting Vintner events.

Every Thursday evening, they are bringing in pros from different regional wineries (changing monthly) to pour flights of their wares and sample from hard-to-get bottles.

If you haven’t visited, Press Club is probably the sexiest place in SF to drink the grape, and if you just haven’t stopped by for a while, they now have beer, they’ve ditch the odd-ball “deposit your AmEx at the door” policy, and every bartender and server can provide you with a glass of anything on offer (used to be each winery had its own area). These changes have truly transformed the atmosphere and character of the place and make it a destination in the heart of downtown (20 Yerba Buena Ln. – essentially, right off Market on the west side of the 4 Seasons).

September’s Visiting Vintners are Cakebread Cellars and Bonny Doon Vineyard.

For future listings, check out the Press Club events page.

Ted Seghesio, Winemaker at Seghesio Family Vineyards, and an array of bubbles from Domaine Carneros

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Vin de Noix

As posted yesterday, I made a batch of nocino with TSB, but we also made  Vin De Noix, a French walnut wine.

Vin de Noix

  • 10 green walnuts, soaked overnight and quartered
  • 500 ml vodka
  • 1/2 c maple syrup
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 orange slices
  • 1 bottle white burgundy

Combine all ingredients in a half-gallon mason jar and let sit, shaking occasionally for at least 3 months.

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The San Graal of Simple Sangria

Some people have a magic touch, and TSB‘s  furtive fingers mix the meanest sangria I’ve ever tasted, but she also makes the process quick and simple, despite the complexities that other sangria masters claim the drink requires.  The following are her recipes, for which I can take no credit other than my role taste testing for quality assurance over the years.  [Editor’s note: “fuzzy” water in the following recipes denotes carbonated mineral water.]

Red Sangria

2 bottles of red wine (I grab whatever looks familiar and is on sale for under $10 a bottle.  Not the cheapest of the cheap – it’s gotta be something I’d drink – a cab or a rioja usually)
1/2 – 1 cup of brandy
1 cup of orange juice
1 16-ounce bottle fuzzy water – lemon, lime or orange flavored work well
sugar (optional)
1 apple, cut into small cubes
1 orange, sliced
1 lime, sliced
1 lemon, sliced

If you have time, combine the juice and brandy and let the sliced fruit sit in the mix in the fridge for a couple of hours, stirring occasionally. Add the wine, taste and add sugar if you’d like; (I typically don’t, but every once in a while it could use a couple of tablespoons) and refrigerate for another couple of hours. Add the fuzzy water just before serving and there you go. Sangria.

White Peach Sangria:

2 bottles of cheap pinot grigio, or whatever is on hand
1/2 – 1 cup peach vodka
1 cup peach nectar
1/2 bag of frozen peaches
1/2 bag of frozen mangoes
1 16-ounce bottle of fuzzy water – lemon or orange flavor

For this one I combine the vodka, wine and nectar and refrigerate for a couple of hours, adding the frozen fruit and fuzzy water just before serving.

I also do white “antioxidant” sangria which is similar to the above but I use raspberry or blueberry flavored vodka, with blueberries, raspberries and strawberries as my fruit; the mixed berry fuzzy water and maybe some strawberry nectar or blueberry pom as the juice. This isn’t so much a traditional sangria, but because it’s made in the same style, I go with it on the nomenclature.

Camping Sangria

Finally, we have what I’ll call “camping” sangria. This is for when you’re making your sangria elsewhere and you don’t want to be lugging 80 thousand ingredients around with you. Shockingly enough, it tastes just like sangria I’ve had at restaurants the world over, particularly in Mexico where they prefer it sweeter and more citrusy.

2 bottles of red wine
1 20 oz. bottle of Sierra Mist or other way too sweet lemon/limey soda
1 cup of orange juice (most people have this in their fridge for you to pilfer, or you can get a small container of it easily)

Combine ingredients.
Aaaaaand that’s it. Garnish again with the sliced fruit, but this is all that’s necessary for a completely passable sangria. Shocking, I know. It doesn’t pack the punch of the sangria with the added alcohol, but it’s still tasty and refreshing, and let’s face it, we don’t always need extra alcohol.

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Wine Purse, Where’s My Bourbon Briefcase?

Recently released by the Scandinavian Design Center, the Baggy Winecoat is a poorly named purse that holds the internal bag from boxed wine with a convenient pour spout and sturdy base for fashionable picnic drinking.

In this age of Mad Men mimicry, when we can’t all keep a fully stocked bar in the office, I think now is the time for stylish, discrete liquor luggage. Wouldn’t it be great to show up to a party, or invite colleagues into your office on a Friday afternoon, with three bottles discretely stashed in your stylish briefcase with built in taps? I’ll probably have to design and build by own bottle bag, because I haven’t seen what I seek on the market yet.

Please post comments below on the features you would like to see.

Design notes for future project development:

  • Classic style in wood and leather.
  • Include a secret compartment to hide documents, so nobody realizes I have to do real work occasionally.
  • The apothecary bottles common to bourbon would be a great fit; flatter and more square than wine bottle shape most often used for spirits.
  • Low profile buttons at base for discrete dispensing.

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Wine Cocktails

As mentioned yesterday, a shorter version of this article is in the latest issue of Drink Me Magazine.

For most, wine cocktails are what we drank while backpacking across Europe at 19 years old – before we knew better.  No longer relegated to bottomless Bellini brunch specials and champagne cocktails served to octogenarian knitting circles in hotel bars, cocktails made with wine have been making a resurgence on the American bar scene.

While cocktails crafted with wine may be viewed as an recent trend, the technique has a tradition reaching back centuries.  Wine was often the alcohol in the original punch recipes (with sugar, water, fruit and tea) of British sailors in the 17th century.  In fact, many prominent stories of the genesis of the word “cocktail” are rooted in the term first being used to refer to a drink that combined spirits and wine, either from the 19th century tail-cropping style used to designate a good horse of mixed-breed, or all the way back to the Revolutionary War, when American and French officers would pour back and forth between glasses in a show of solidarity, mixing the wines preferred by the French with the gin and whiskey of the locals.  Near one such tavern, a rooster was stolen from a Tory and it’s feathers used to adorn their drinks,  prompting the toast, “vive le cocktail.” American bartenders in the mid-nineteenth century, the golden age of cocktails, utilized wine in mixed drinks rather than waste the contents of bottles opened too long ago to be served, giving cocktails new character, but cocktails made with wine had fallen out of fashion again by the 1870s.

As Pre-prohibition cocktails have been coming back into vogue, new wine cocktails have started showing up on the menus at elite cocktail bars across the country over the past couple years.  When absinthe became readily available again stateside, Death in the Afternoon, a drink devised by Ernest Hemingway in 1935, as a jigger of absinthe dropped into a glass of champagne, became a favorite, but there are so many other superb wine cocktails lacking celebrity endorsement.  The French 75 is a perennial classic, and newer wine-enhanced drinks have emerged, like the (there was supposed to be a drink from Reza at Conduit here, but they shuttered the restaurant while this article was being written) in  San Francisco and the New York Sour at Schiller’s Liquor Bar, which takes a modern twist on the whiskey sour with a float of dry red wine.

Simple reds and whites are less commonly utilized and have always been rarer cocktail components than sparkling wines like champagne and prosecco, late harvest dessert wines, and fortified wines like sherry, port and of course vermouth, the most commonly used wine in cocktails. Sparkling wines add effervescence to a cocktail without diluting it’s potency, while dessert wines and fortified wines have higher alcohol content, rivaling the potency of liqueurs while adding complexity to a drink.

In creating wine cocktails, balance is key, requiring careful measurement.  For contriving your own wine cocktails, start with recipes for your favorite classic cocktails and consider where wine can be substituted for an ingredient, or added to an existing cocktail to alter its profile. Start by substituting or adding wine one tablespoon at a time. You can look abroad for influences as well. Spaniards are famous for their sangria, but infamous for their calimocho and tinto de verano, red wine mixed with cola and lemon-lime soda respectively. When we accept that many spirits are simply wine distilled away from its water, it might be a little easier to accept such bastardizations.  Nobody scoffs at a Singapore sling which is, in essence, only a step away from tinto de verano.

Tip: like crafty bartenders of the 1860s, you can make the most out of wine that’s been sitting around too long by making a wine syrup the same way you make simple syrup.  Combine equal parts (by volume) leftover red or white wine and sugar in a sauce pan.  Over medium heat, bring to a boil, while stirring, just long enough to dissolve the sugar, or longer for more intense flavors. Try substituting this for a fortified wine or liqueur in one of your favorite cocktail recipes for something innovative and new.

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Hey Look, I’m In A Magazine

I was asked to write a piece for Nirvino in Drink Me Magazine on making cocktails with wine. There’s a longer version of the article that I will post here tomorrow, but I wanted to give you the magazine page, which you can click to enlarge and read.

Drink Me is having a party for the release of Issue 6 on Thursday at Coda in San Francisco, and I’ll have an article in issue 7 as well, covering the SF World Spirits Competition. I had no idea that the event has always been closed off to press and media until I got there and was the only one not judging or filling glasses.

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Send Quinn to Chile

Xplorador is sending someone *cough*pick me*cough* to Chile to experience the harvest and production of their wines.   A buddy shot this video while I was standing outside a bar last night, so I’m throwing my gorro into the ring.

I’d been out late with friends, so pardon the rambling, but I still believe that I am the the ideal candidate.  As you can see from the rest of my site, I love to explore adult beverages and share them with the world through my writing, photos and video.  I’m articulate, without being too obnoxious, and above all, I am passionate about what I drink, from harvest to pour. I’d love to be able to tell everyone back in the States what the vineyards and wineries of Chile are like from the everyday normal guy perspective.

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As an added bonus. I promise not to use the word “opportunity” ever again, since I entirely wore it out in this video.

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