Category Archives: cocktails

the alpine margarita | settling into mountain life

I owe you all and myself a proper catch-up post here. That’ll have to wait, but I’ll give you a little peek into what’s been going on. So much has changed over the past three months, since we’ve transitioned from city life to farmer life. Out of all the questions I’m asked, I hear this one most frequently, “What is the biggest thing you didn’t expect when you moved to the country and began growing grapes?” Sure, the exhaustive work is challenging, the learning curve to become a successful grape-grower is a constant struggle, but the real challenge is weed control.

We are shifting the vineyard’s practices and employing organic and sustainable methods, so applying commercial herbicides or pesticides is not in our playbook. We’ve been doing a lot of hand-pulling and weed-eating, instead. There are weeding attachments for tractors, but we’ve been trying to save money on extra expenses. Instead, we’ve been doing the work ourselves. I have the callouses to prove it.

We are in the dead heat of summer, as many of you are, and seeking a cool respite from the sun’s pounding rays is always on our minds. Weeding in the stark sunlight is brutal. So, of course it was the perfect time for our swamp cooler to call it quits last week. It sputters out water and particulates and barely chills the air down to 80 degrees. I’m seriously considering crashing a local hotel pool or even trying to sneak into one of the fancy mountain pools sometime this weekend.

I’m desperate.

There is something so magical when you pair margaritas with a hot day. It’s like the two were meant for each other. Our vineyard is located just over a mile above sea level and gets more sunshine annually than Florida, the so-called “Sunshine State.” In fact, the mesa we’re farming on is aptly named, “Sunshine Mesa.” To beat the heat we’ve been experiencing, we’ve been making tequila-based cocktails on repeat over the last few weeks. This simple riff on the classic margarita takes a nod from the alpine area I live in and mixes it perfectly with freshly squeezed lime and orange liqueur.

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meyer lemon bourbon fizzes | a change of scenery

April has been quite the month for us, to put it lightly. Since our move out to the western slope of Colorado to the tiny town of Paonia a few weeks back, I’ve traded my dress suits for Carhartt overalls, I haven’t given wearing makeup a second thought, I go to bed before 11:00 on most evenings, and I’m learning how to drive a tractor.

Crazy, right?

Our nightly conversations involve discussions on pruning styles, vineyard trellising ideas, irrigation challenges, soil amendments, the right tractor attachment for weeding, and the next step for renovating our 1950s farmhouse. It’s definitely a fixer-upper, but it has charming potential. Some people might say it’s dated and basic, while I say it’s “rustic chic” and just begging for a breath of fresh air!

It’s hard to think that March 9th was my last night as a sommelier and manager at Shanahan’s back in the city. I know I have alluded to change over the past few months here on the blog, but I hadn’t gone into much detail. Now that I am finished with my job, it’s a little easier to do. For those of you who don’t know, Steve and I took a daring leap of faith and decided to follow our dreams of owning and operating a vineyard and eventual winery.

We had always thought we’d wind up in either California or Oregon, and we had always thought it was about ten years down the road. Well, when the timing is right, and the place is a perfect fit, you sometimes have to take the risk, close your eyes, jump out, and make the dream happen.

And that’s just what we did.

We asked two of our closest friends and fellow wine industry professionals to join us on this crazy adventure, and we have all been pruning just over 20 acres of grapevines over the past few weeks, in addition to acclimating to “roommate life” in a small farmhouse. Optimally, we would’ve started on the daunting task of clipping back the vines in March, but Steve and I were still finishing up our jobs there at the restaurant. I’ll share more about the move, our new place, and our plans for the future in another post. For now, I’ll share this simple cocktail I’ve been making with the remaining Meyer lemons that keep trickling into my kitchen.

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the tropicante | margarita of the year

Between packing up our old house and making small moves out to our new spot on the western slope of Colorado, Steve and I have barely had time to fix dinner, let alone relax and enjoy it together. Last night was different, however. Steve fired up the grill, despite the falling snow outside, and served up some Coho salmon, alongside a few handfuls of blanched spring peas and sautéed green onions.

I garnished every, last bite of salmon with fresh avocado, since we’ve had a lot of it on hand this past week. It has made appearances on sourdough avocado toast, layered between salsa and corn chips, piled on by the spoonful, and even muddled up in a few cocktails. Have you ever tried adding avocado to a drink? If you have enjoyed any egg whites-based cocktails, then you understand the delicious role that texture plays and the sometimes surprising ingredients that make it happen. Adding avocado does the very same thing an egg white does – it adds a rich, silky mouthfeel and integrates a variety of flavors together.

I find it perfectly timed that I get to share an avocado-based cocktail with you that’s in the running for Patrón’s 2017 “Margarita of the Year.” It’s one of seven artisanal, creative spins on the versatile, classic cocktail, crafted by top-notch bartenders around the world. One of those bartenders in the running is Denver’s own Alex Kady of 12 @ Madison and Star Bar. His Tropicante Margarita is a whipped combination of reposado tequila, mango liqueur, citrus, and avocado. It’s also the perfect brunch cocktail to complement your go-to avo toast. I might have done just that. On a Wednesday.

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the classic dirty martini | simple ingredients, minimal effort, complex results

I really wish life worked out more like the title of this blog post: simple ingredients, minimal effort, with complex results. Rarely does it ever turn out just like that, right? Lately, it’s been more like this: empty cupboards, requiring multiple hours to source the necessary ingredients with beyond maximum effort. Super-human effort. Effort that’s squeezed from the last remaining drop of life in my blood, with lots of carnage, unmet needs, unfulfilled requests, forgotten emails, and a few starved relationships left in the wake. And multiple martinis along the way. Let’s not forget those.

It’s not been a pretty scene.

There is, however, a warm, bright, beckoning light at the end of the tunnel. I cannot wait to share more about all of the exciting changes with you very soon. As soon as I get a little more sleep, tie up some flailing loose ends, and … finish packing up my life here in Denver. There’s a big move on the horizon. One that I’m not quite ready for, but I have wished to embark upon for a long time.


If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.

— Nora Roberts


There are copious examples of drinks out there that require contemplation and examination. The barrel-aged Negronis, the port barrel-seasoned stouts, the bourbon barrel-aged Cabernet Sauvignons, the late-harvest and slow-fermented orange wines. You know the like.

I’ve been craving and consuming more simple and straight-forward sips. Perhaps it’s a reflection of how I wish I were feeling: more centered, simple, and clean. Yes, I do take showers on the regular. That’s not what I mean by “clean.” I’ve been enjoying a classic, easy-to-drink Pilsner or a clean, crisp Champagne or an ounce or two of my favorite bourbon on the rocks. A drink that lets me wander toward my own thoughts, without having to dissect its complexities.

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mint cucumber + smoky jalapeño margaritas | celebrating kristy gardner’s book, “cooking with cocktails”

Apparently, it is National Margarita Day today, a celebration of all-things-tequila, salt-laced, and citrus-y. I’m also celebrating the book release of one of my favorite food bloggers and friends, Kristy Gardner, of She Eats. Her new book, Cooking with Cocktails, is dedicated to the both the cocktail-imbibing cook and the food-loving beverage connoisseur. Its beautiful pages are filled with 100 boozy recipes, each crafted with wine, beer, or spirits. I’d can safely say that she wrote this book with me in mind.

I have been patiently awaiting the publication of Kristy’s book ever since I helped her test a few recipes for it this past spring. When she asked me to be a part of her virtual book release tour, I didn’t hesitate for a minute. Since the date of my post along the tour fortuitously fell upon National Margarita Day, I knew that I had to share Kristy’s recipe for “Mint Cucumber + Smoky Jalapeño Margaritas” with you.

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dsc_3937For those of you new to Kristy Gardner, I’ll give an introduction. She is a writer, photographer, and self-professed “bourbonator” from Vancouver, British Columbia. Bourbon is her jam. She also does a little acting and owns a branding agency called, Peppercorn Creative. The two of us bonded over the subject of cocktails {our first love} from the start about four years ago, and we regularly send each other lengthy emails and care packages filled with culinary treats {our second love, essentially}.

I trust Kristy’s drink-making skills implicitly. In fact, the very first recipe of Kristy’s that I tried was her version of Bourbon-Soaked Cherries. Since then, I’ve made iterations of my own and put them atop ice cream, stuffed them inside galettes and hand pies, and eaten them straight out of the jar. This particular recipe that I’m sharing with you is the perfect combination of flavors. As much as I love a simple lime-centric margarita, this smoky, savory, and slightly vegetal version might be my new favorite.

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