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4 cocktail recipes for halloween

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Great cocktail

For me, Halloween marks the official start of the holiday season. So let’s celebrate the spirit of the season with some seasonal spirits, shall we?

Here are 4 Halloween-themed cocktail recipes that will get your holiday season off to a spirited start.


Halloween Cocktail Recipe #1 – Persephone Returns to Hades

halloween cocktail recipes - persephoneAny drink that involves a muddler deserves a long name just so people are aware of how much work goes into the dang thing. Plus, with winter approaching, the myth of Persephone and her underworld lover is fitting.


1 part pomegranate juice

1 ½ parts gin or vodka

¾ part grenadine or simple syrup

2-3 mint or basil leaves

squeeze of fresh lime

To make: Add mint or basil leaves to glass, cover with grenadine. Muddle together. Add ice and remaining ingredients. Shake until chilled.

Serve with a cocktail straw in a high or lowball glass. Garnish with mint or basil leaves, cherry, mini plastic pitchfork or other hellish decorations.


Halloween Cocktail Recipe #2 – Bitches’ Brew


port wine

stout beer

To make: Fill glass 1/3 of the way with port. Fill remainder of glass with chilled stout.
Serve in a lowball glass or stemmed glass.


Halloween Cocktail Recipe #3 – Queen of the Damned


1 part raspberry vodka OR vodka + raspberry liqueur

1 part coffee liqueur

2 parts champagne

red sugar for rim

To make: Shake first two ingredients together with ice, strain and serve in a martini glass rimmed with red sugar or with bloody candy rim. Fill rest of glass with champagne. Garnish with slice of blood orange (optional).


Halloween Cocktail Recipe #4 – Cool Autumn Breeze


1 part gold rum

1 part sweet tea

splash of sour mix

squeeze of lemon

To make: Combine all ingredients  in a lowball glass over ice. Stir well. Garnish with lemon or orange wedge.




sipping mummy photo by: Passetti, on Flickr


wine dinners: a great way to find good wine

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When it comes to finding a wine you like, you’ve really only got a few methods to choose from.

  • you can take a recommendation from a friend or an expert,
  • you can take a wild guess based on the prettiness of the label and / or the floweriness  of the wording on the bottle as you stand scratching your head in the aisle
  • or… you can taste it.

Of those three methods, only tasting is foolproof. Friends and experts may have different palates, and we all know better than to judge a wine by its cover, don’t we? And even once you’ve chosen a wine, there’s the work of figuring out what wine goes with what.

Enter, the wine dinner. This growing trend helps experienced and budding wine connoisseurs make sense of it all. If you haven’t had the chance to go to a wine dinner yet, lemme ‘splain what you’re missing out on.


What is a Wine Dinner?

A wine dinner is multi-course meal, typically hosted by a restaurant, a winery or a combination of the two. Each course of the meal comes along with a wine that has been selected to complement the dish being served.


What’s So Great about Wine Dinners?

You get to relax – unlike wine tastings and tours where you’re sort of shuffled along between tastings, at a wine dinner you’re comfortably seated. You can even kick your shoes off if you want, I won’t tell.

You get a serious wine education – during the wine dinner, either the restaurant’s sommelier or a representative from the vineyard will provide notes on the wines you taste that you simply won’t get anywhere else. Plus, if you happen to attend a wine dinner with other ‘cork dorks’, you’ll learn even more from the conversation.

You get to eat some really great food – most of the restaurants hosting wine dinners are pretty top-notch. Often, they’ll feature special dishes for the wine dinner that aren’t on their regular menu.

You save money – during a wine dinner you’ll typically taste a minimum of four dishes, along with equal servings of wine for a much lower price than you would if you were to purchase them all at regular price.

Here’s a quick roundup of three wine dinners in Atlanta that I’ve attended recently, and how I fared at each.


Mirassou Wine Dinner

As part of a multi-city promotional tour coinciding with the 156th anniversary of Mirassou Winery, California winemaker David Mirassou hosted a series of wine dinners for local food and beverage writers, wine educators, and bloggers across the country. The Atlanta stop of the tour featured a 6-course tasting menu prepared by Chef Kevin Gillespie of Woodfire Grill, and yours truly was invited to attend.  Each course was a perfect mouthful of local, seasonal ingredients that Chef Gillespie crafted to complement the accompanying wine. Throughout the meal, David entertained us with stories from his family’s winemaking past, and explained the unique characteristics of each wine we tasted. Needless to say, the food was amazing. The wines – a pleasant surprise.

My favorite wine of the evening: Mirassou Cabernet Sauvignon – I’m not usually a big fan of Cabs, most tend to be too tannic for my tastes. But Mirassou’s Cabernet was much more drinkable, while still retaining the tannic profile. I dubbed it, ‘the softer side of Cab’. Retails for around $10



Mother’s Day Brunch at Frogtown Cellars

Craving the experience of Napa, but lacking the time or the funds? Georgia’s wine country is a suitable alternative for us Atlantans. This past Mother’s Day I decided to treat Mom and myself to our first visit to a Georgia winery. We chose Frogtown Cellars in Dahlonega, and were treated to a delicious 4-course brunch with wine pairings in a truly beautiful setting.

My favorite wine of the day: Frogtown First Convergence – East-meets-West blend of Cabernet and Malbec grapes from Russian River (66%) and Cabernet Franc grapes from Frogtown vineyard (34%). Retails for $27.99



The Generous Pour Wine Event at The Capital Grille

Did you know that there are only 173 Master Sommeliers in the entire world? So it’s a real treat when one of these esteemed wine experts hand picks 9 of his personal favorites and invites you to taste them. That’s exactly what went down this week at The Capital Grille in Buckhead. The restaurant invited several local food writers to a special preview of their summer wine event, The Generous Pour. George Miliotes, Master Sommelier and resident wine expert at The Capital Grille, joined via telecast to explain the 9 wines he chose for the event, and then answered our questions via live Twitter feed. After George’s introduction, we sampled each of the wines along with complementary dishes prepared by Chef Brad Weiderman. The unparalleled white-glove level of service at the Capital Grille made this one a real treat.

My favorites of the evening:

Tarima Hill Monastrell, 2009 – A Spanish varietal that’s not available anywhere else in the US for the next couple of months. It’s a medium-bodied red that I can only describe as ‘seductive’.

Chateau St. Jean, Belle Terre, 2008 – arguably the best Chardonnay I’ve ever tasted. Described as ‘a rich, creamy wine… with toasted almond and vanilla oak’. From the Russian River region of California. $25.



The Capital Grille’s Generous Pour Wine Event continues through September 4, and is only $25 for ample servings of all 9 wines with dinner. Do this!

To see questions and answers from The Generous Pour preview event, search for #tcgpour11 on Twitter.

Want to get personalized wine recommendations from a Master Sommelier? Follow George Miliotes (@TheWineExpert) on Twitter.

But hey – don’t just settle for his (or my) recommendations. Go out and taste for yourself.




drink for a good cause – 2 reasons to raise your glass

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I say, if you must drink, drink for a good cause.

Examples of good causes include:

  • ’cause it’s Wednesday
  • ’cause I feel like it, and
  • ’cause somebody else is buying

But if you’re searching for an even better cause to drink for, there are a couple of great ones happening this week.

Cause #1: Celebrity Cocktail Nights at Park 75 Lounge

This Thursday, the Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta continues its weekly Celebrity Cocktail Nights. Every Thursday through June 24th, Park 75 Lounge at the Four Seasons will feature a different local celebrity bartender serving up his/her favorite cocktail recipe for attendees. This week’s celebrity drink peddler is Vern Yip – the charming and talented host of HGTV shows like Design Star and Deserving Design.

Why it’s a Good Cause: A portion of the proceeds will be donated to The Ulman Cancer Fund, which provides specialized support for young adults affected by cancer.

Cocktails are $10 each, and complimentary valet is available. Event goes from 6-9pm.


Cause #2: Atlanta Classics Bar Tour in Virginia Highlands
On Saturday, May 29, 2010 from 1- 6pm, experience drinks and food at some of the most historic bars and restaurants in Atlanta. $10 (advance price) covers your admission, a Classic Bar Tour mug, a t-shirt and discounted drinks at the participating pubs. Featured bars include: Atkins Park Tavern, George’s Restaurant and Bar, Limerick Junction Irish Pub, Manuel’s Tavern and Moe’s & Joe’s Tavern. Participating bars will also offer food specials at 1960s prices. Groovy!

Why it’s a Good Cause: A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Check out for tickets and more info.

purpose-driven cheers,


copycat recipe – tangerine basil mojito inspired by king of pops

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Popsicles are for kids, right?


Once you’ve tasted the tantalizing frozen treats from Atlanta popsicle purveyor, King of Pops, you might find yourself elbowing little kids in the forehead to get to them before they do.

King of Pops (a member of Atlanta’s growing street food vendor community) offers gourmet popsicles that feature unique pairings of fresh ingredients like pineapple and ginger, grapefruit and mint, and lime with fresh squeezed cane juice.

On a recent visit to the Irwin Street Market, the beau and I sampled King of Pops tangerine basil offering. I can honestly say that I’ve never had a popsicle that tasted soooo good! The popsicle had little pieces of tangerine pulp and whole-leaf basil throughout – a very refreshing combo for a hot day. On the beau’s suggestion that flavors in the popsicle “might make a tasty beverage as well,” I decided to test out a cocktail recipe with tangerine and basil that’s a lot like the recipe for a traditional mojito.

Don’t worry, you won’t have to fight the kids over this one – it’s strictly for the grown ups.

Ingredients / Supplies (for 1 tangerine-basil mojito)

1 small tangerine or 1/2 large tangerine

3-4 fresh basil leaves

2 tsp granulated sugar (raw sugar is best, you might also sub agave, if that’s your thing)

white rum (preferably Cachaca – Brazilian rum)

crushed ice

highball glass

muddler or pestle

How to make the tangerine-basil mojito:

Cut the tangerine into small wedges and place in glass. Roll basil leaves together and slice into thin strips. Add the basil to the glass. Add sugar to glass and muddle all ingredients together with pestle or muddler. The goal is to extract as much juice from the tangerine as you can while dissolving most or all of the sugar. Fill the glass with crushed ice. Pour in rum until glass is approximately 3/4 full. Vary the strength of the drink by using more tangerine and sugar and / or less rum to your tastes.

Of course, if you absolutely must share this beverage with the little ankle-biters, just substitute the cachaca with ‘fizzy lifting drink’ – aka, sparkling water or club soda.



warm weather red: lodi deep purple zinfandel

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There was a time when I was a year-round drinker of white wines. I hadn’t yet developed the palate to appreciate the taste of a merlot, a cabernet, or even a pinot noir. Over time, however, I grew to like reds more, but I was still the sort of red drinker who saved the ruby-colored vinos for the cooler months of the year. Once spring hit, I couldn’t wait to get back to my tried-and-true Chardonnays, Rieslings, and Pinot Grigios.  

This past winter though, I seem to have developed a stronger affinity for reds than ever before, and even now that it’s begun to warm up here in Atlanta, I’m still longing for the fuller, rounded taste of a red over the immature sweetness of  a white (hm. pausing for a moment to reflect on the unintentional parallel to my over-30 self).

Anywho, a couple of days ago the beau brought home what looks like will be my warm-weather red companion for at least a few more weeks – we’ll have to see how much I’m loving it once the temperature stays above the 90-degree mark.

Name: Deep Purple Zinfandel 2007

Type: A California Zinfandel from the Lodi region

Tastes Like: very jammy; blackberry, and ripe purple fruit

Where to Buy: Green’s on Ponce

Wallet Damage: around $10

Other Notes:  The label is decked out in psychedelic lettering that’s a trip to read, especially after a couple of glasses. We’ve already nicknamed it ‘Purple Haze’.

beer connoisseur online launches

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You’re Invited!



Dear BonVivant Online Reader,

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently started blogging for Beer Connoisseur Online. For the past few months, the folks at Beer Connoisseur have been working hard to get both the print and online versions of the magazine ready for release.

And now, it’s ready.

The Beer Connoisseur Online website went live a couple of weeks ago, and to celebrate, Beer Connoisseur is hosting a launch party.



When: Tuesday July 21st, 2009
What: A SweetWater Brewery souvenir glass and beer tastings. Connoisseur Cask tapped and poured, live music, brewery tours, photographer and more!
Details: Magazine Subscribers** – $10. Non-Subscribers – $12.



**Subscribers enjoy – VIP brewery tour by a SweetWater tour guide and access to the VIP seating area with a complimentary cheese pairing.

To become a Beer Connoisseur subscriber, visit the website. Use promotion code: FBC-0103 to get exclusive benefits.
To RSVP:email with the number of people attending and whether or not you are a subscriber.



don’t worry kids, mama’s still here.

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Hello there, dear reader.

I know I’ve been off the grid for a while, but just thought I’d pop in to let you know that: Yes. I’m still alive. And no, I haven’t abandoned the blog. But I have intentionally taken some time away from it to work on and begin planning a couple of other pursuits.

One of these pursuits, I’m really excited about. I will be writing / blogging for Beer Connoisseur Magazine. One of my bc-magwork colleagues who’s also working on the magazine extended the invitation for me to chat with Lynn Davis, the founder of Beer Connoisseur Magazine. After we talked, they agreed to let me write a blog all about my experiences in becoming a beer connoisseur. Is that a perfect gig or what? Drink beer. Write. Repeat. Love it! This magazine is going to be an excellent addition to the growing culture beer geeks and aficionados. The online version of the magazine launches in June. If you want to keep up with the progress outside of me telling you, check out Beer Connoisseur Magazine on Facebook and on Twitter. And keep your eyes on

Since starting the blog over a year ago, I’ve had other great opportunities like this one come up, and I’ve met some really cool people, many of whom actually dig my writing. It feels good when that happens. It feels even better when I can leverage those experiences and contacts to write more often and in different capacities.

A few weeks ago I read my horoscope in Creative Loafing. I’m not big on daily horoscopes, but I always like reading Free Will Astrology in the Loaf. It’s very creatively written, and always makes me smile or ponder. Here’s what I read that day:

You’re trying to look relaxed even though you have one foot on a dock and one foot on a boat as the boat pulls away. How should we interpret this scene? Here’s what I think: It seems likely that at any minute now you will have to commit yourself to either the dock, the boat, or the water.

A very poignant message that made me stop for a second and think. I sort of am in this in-between place of wanting to succeed at the full-time gig, but also wanting to succeed at writing. Which is why I decided to take some time and really give thought to what I want to do with this blogging/writing thing long term. Plus, birthdays are always a good time for self-reflection and goal-setting, pace changing and the like. Oh, I did mention that Friday was my birthday right? Please forward along cash, credit, adult beverages, and well wishes as you see fit.

Yep, it’s the official start of Year 32 for me. Not the most exciting of milestones. But it does mean I’m only one year away from being the same age Jesus was when he blew up. So, if I’m using JC as my role model, between now and next May I have to learn how to: walk on water, turn water into wine (Or beer. For research purposes, you know), raise the dead, heal the sick, make the blind see, and recruit me a down-ass crew of diehards. I’m hoping I’ll also learn how to spot a hater from a mile away, so I won’t have to deal with that messy betrayal and crucifixion bit. Yep, it’s going to be a busy time for the empire.

Good thing is, I’m writing you from day 3 of a 6-day Mexican vacation, so I’m already resting up in preparation for the year ahead. I’ll be writing about the trip and posting pictures after I return, but I thought I’d share some travel planning tools that I’ve found to be very useful for this and other vacations. If you’re a frequent traveler, a lot of these might be old news to you, but quite a few people I’ve spoken with hadn’t heard of them, so I thought it was still worth sharing.

Here goes:

First, A Word on My Travel Style

I’m a little bit more adventurous than a lot of folks, but not completely. I like to get a taste of the local culture, food, and people, so I’m okay with being in places that are a little off the beaten path. I prefer not to stay in all-inclusives (Jamaica being an exception), or extremely touristy areas. I often try to get in multiple destinations in a single trip, if they’re reasonably close together. My idea of a vacation is getting away from what my everyday experience is like, not going to someplace that is almost exactly like my everyday experience.

Pricing Flights, Hotels, Packages

Whenever I decide to travel somewhere, I spend a lot of time on the Internets price-hunting, and comparing different deals on different sites. I’m not a bottom basement bargain traveler, though. I’ll pay a little extra if a place is really unique, or it’s a special occasion. Or to know my exact flight time and hotel name before I purchase. Here are the sites I relied on heavily for this trip:


Cheap Caribbean

Trip Advisor – the reviews on this site are absolutely indispensable if you want to know the real deal on any number of hotels and vacation destinations. Opinions from real people will give you the details that the hotel websites simply won’t. – lots of reasonably priced vacation packages to different beach destinations, arranged by region. Their sister site, offers the same types of packages for Europe.

Expedia – tried and true. Especially good for comparison price checking on hotels.

Getting to Know the Area

Once I decided to go to Mexico, I narrowed down which areas I’d be interested in. On the list was: Cabo, Manzanillo, Oaxaca, and the Mayan Riviera on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. Flights to Cabo and Oaxaca were kinda steep, and Manzanillo seemed a little too laid-back and quiet. I finally settled on the Mayan Riviera because it seemed to offer the best of both worlds. As a compromise with the beau, I decided on 2 days at an all-inclusive in Playa del Carmen, and the rest of the time in nearby Tulum – which has a get away from it all, beach-bum kind of vibe and is close to a major ecological preserve. Here’s where I went to help make that decision:


Loco Gringo

Budget Travel
Tulum Living

Uncle Sam’s Advice

2 days after I booked my flight, swine flu. Great timing. I immediately added the following site to my list, which I’d also checked beforehand to make sure I wouldn’t end up getting shot by drug lords.

US Travel Advisory

Speaking the Language

I’m decent at Spanish, My vocab is a bit better than basic, and I can fake a good accent. I really enjoy getting to practice when I travel, it makes for some memorable moments and is part of the overall adventure, as evidenced by last year’s trip to Panama. Radio Lingua publishes free podcast lessons for Spanish and many other languages. The lessons are arranged by type of situation (e.g., driving, eating out, etc.), which I like, because I can select the situations where my vocab is weaker. Easy to carry along on my mp3 player, for listening on the plane and in the car. One funny thing about these podcasts is that the ‘teachers’ are Scottish. It’s funny as hell hearing a Scottish person speak Spanish. So even if I retain nothing, it was free entertainment. Check them out here.

Oh, and given the swine flu situation, I made sure that I had the following key phrases memorized:

Estoy enferma.

I am sick

Donde esta la hospital?

Where is the hospital?

Donde puedo comprar una mascara quirurgica?

Where can I buy a surgical mask?

Perdona me, Senor. Pero si no cobres tu boca, voy a cortarte.

Excuse me sir, but if you don’t cover your mouth, I am going to cut you.

Si voy a morir, quiero morir a la playa.

If I’m going to die, I want to die at the beach.

Of course, the travel advisory has been rolled back, so I most likely won’t need any of these phrases.

Oh, darn.

Packing Smart

I got my merit badge on packing smart during my days as a road warrior consultant. The basics haven’t lapsed, but there were a few things in the following article on Dumb Little Man explaining tips on packing smart that I hadn’t considered before, namely:

If you’re traveling with a partner, discuss your joint luggage strategy


Tuck a written list of toiletries in your bag.

Head over to Dumb Little Man to see the other tips.

That’s all for now kids. Talk to you soon.