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The Washington Post

Is Tequila the New Vodka?
Product placement hits new heights (or lows) when it comes to spirits
7 September 2010
The Situation - that fist-pumping, grenade-avoiding, gym-tanning-laundry cad from MTV's "Jersey Shore" - is now shilling for Devotion Vodka, a spirit infused with protein powder.

A good daiquiri deserves the right rum
17 August 2010
In the unrelenting deluge of fancy new cocktails to sample, I often forget about important things. Like, for instance, I completely forgot how good a daiquiri can be. By some strange turn of events, I went almost a whole year without thinking about daiquiris. Then, suddenly, during one particularly gross, sweaty midsummer-evening trudge home, it struck me: You know what would be pretty awesome right about now? A daiquiri.

Celebrating Carmenere, Chile's incomparable red wine
3 August 2010
During my post-grad years in the early 1990s, I drank a lot of Chilean red wine. Most of it was purchased in large bottles for very little money, and it was generally taken to the kind of dinner party where someone had made a bad vegetarian lasagna and someone else had tried to make tabouli, and we all crowded onto a musty couch and ate off mismatched plates. There might or might not have been a corkscrew, and it was inevitable that one person would have to sip wine from a coffee mug.

Understanding alcohol proof
14 July 2010
Proof is an equation that even someone like me, who earned a C- in remedial math, can do: Double the number listed as the alcohol by volume on the bottle. A spirit with 40 percent alcohol by volume, therefore, is 80 proof.

Is it time for a fern bar revival?
2 June 2010
Is the fern bar ready for its revival? Are we soon to see trendy urban bars themed to look like the Regal Beagle, Jack Tripper's swinging hangout in the 1970s sitcom "Three's Company"?

Soave, haunted by its pitiful past
26 May 2010
I have been trying to spread the good word on Soave Classico lately, and reactions divide squarely along generational lines.

Most people under 35 give me blank stares. "Soave?" they ask. "Like Rico Suave?" Meanwhile, when I mention it to those of my parents' generation, Soave brings a distinctly negative response. Baby boomers remember the cheap, pitiful product that flooded our shores in the 1970s. When I told my father I would be tasting Soave for my next assignment, he looked at me like I was crazy. "Soave Bolla?" he said. "Good luck with that. Isn't that on the same shelf as Blue Nun and Mateus?"

Becoming fluent in shochu, Japan's answer to vodka
5 May 2010
Learning to taste and appreciate a new spirit is like trying to speak a new language. Sure, you can jump in with a few basic words and expressions and manage for a while. To reach true understanding, however, you're going to have to learn the grammar.

For St. Paddy's Day, make my whiskey Irish
10 March 2010
For all the holiday's focus on drinking, St. Patrick's Day libations usually push the limits of absurdity and good taste. Green beer? Cocktails spiked with green creme de menthe? Shamrock Shakes? Novelty usually trumps all.

The Smart Set

Stuck in Italy
When life hands you volcanic ash plumes, make a week of Venice, wine bars, and sunny lunches.
23 April 2010
“You can’t drive Nature,” the Amarone producer said. “Nature drives you.” She was talking about the wine, the way her family is only able to release vintages from certain vineyards in certain years, and how the grapes determine this, as well as if the wine will be aged for two or three or four years, and whether that aging will happen in large barrels or small. “We never know what Nature gives us.” Of course I hear some version of this trope every time I ever visit a winery, no matter where it is. But on this day, the idea that Nature drives the world took on special meaning.

The Sparkle in Italy's Eye
The Italian makers of prosecco were horrified when Paris Hilton started shilling for a canned, Austrian version of the sparkling wine. But you can only feel so bad for people who live in castles.
4 June 2009
Last spring, Paris Hilton appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman to promote the launch of a new sparkling wine called Rich Prosecco, which is sold in cans, with an expiration date, for around $3.

Port Authority
Port makers want their U.S. market to grow, but you try selling delayed gratification to a bunch of Americans.
5 May 2009
Last month, Portugal’s port wine producers unanimously declared 2007 to be a vintage port. A declaration of vintage port doesn’t happen every year — the last was in 2005, when the 2003 vintage was declared. It pretty much only happens a couple of times a decade, and so a declaration is a very big deal, at least among the shrinking number of people who invest in expensive port. Last Monday, a handful of these people were invited to the Four Seasons restaurant in midtown Manhattan for a preview tasting of these 2007 vintage ports from 11 highly-regarded producers.

On the Nose
Can you learn to taste wine from a $130 kit? Well...
17 December 2008
I recently purchased a kit called "Le Nez Du Vin" that professes to teach me how to identify various aromas in a glass of wine. The kit, which is imported from France, comes in a dictionary-sized case covered in red fabric so that it resembles an old book. Inside are a dozen tiny glass vials, each of which is redolent of a specific, essential red-wine scent when uncapped. These vials are cosseted in crushed velvet (or likely velour). It was purchased at Williams-Sonoma. It cost $130.

A Game Journey
Horse meat, moonshine, and musk. The French are dismissive of American cuisine, but getting to the primal roots of their food isn't so pretty. Our correspondent joins a wild boar hunt.
20 November 2007
The day before the wild boar hunt, we’d eaten horsemeat, which was the traditional weekend lunch of chef Olivier de St. Martin’s childhood. Olivier had earlier taken me along to visit the village horse butcher, who complained that the younger generation of French didn’t eat so much horsemeat anymore. The butcher blamed it on inferior supermarket horsemeat, which he said came — like everything else — pre-packaged from America. “There’s also this idea that the horse is the friend of the man,” said the horse butcher, who also happened to be an old schoolfriend of Olivier’s.

Other

The San Francisco Chronicle
Prosecco takes on a serious tone
9 May 2010
Valdobbiadene , — Italy - Can we have a serious discussion about prosecco?

I know, I know. You don't take prosecco seriously. It's just something light and bubbly to pop open and sip on a warm, sunny afternoon. It's a summer fling, a harmless flirtation. It's definitely not all status-y like that uptight thang, Champagne.

World Hum
Whistling at the Northern Lights
6/29/05
Friends often accuse me of being too nostalgic. By afternoon, they say, I’ve become misty-eyed over what I’ve eaten for breakfast. That’s not completely true, I tell them. I’m sure there’s been a few bowls of cereal that have been unremembered or unremarked upon. But my protests are half-hearted, because I know my friends are right. Case in point: On a recent trip to Iceland, I became weepy at the sight of three sheep grazing in a grassy field underneath the summer midnight sun.

image of liquor bottles