Category Archives: Beverage

Getting Real about bruising the gin martini

It was my clean-shaven, well-moisturized bartender at Swank Cocktail Club who fist introduced me to bruised gin.

I would have never have entered the Swank Cocktail Club on Presidio and California had it not been for “The Girl in her Grandmother’s Mink” (my female inspiration for 2011).  But it was a Wednesday night, I had just recovered from a cold and had not yet eaten dinner.  So I why not drink about it and order a dirty martini with extra olives?

Swank is attached (sort of) to the Laurel Inn, a 2011 Michelin rated boutique hotel within stumbling distance of my apt.  The scene is set with a beautiful mid-century style fireplace lighting the cozy bar.  The place was empty except for a woman in a Eames Lounge not wearing shoes, clearly a few cocktails in stroking her partners inner thigh.  Mad Men season 2 was also playing on multiple flat screens.

I already wanted a cigarette.

My Absolute dirty martini was the perfect combination of salty crisp.  My drinking buddy ordered a Tanqueray martini.  After the gin had already been shaken and poured the bartender apologized for bruising the drink.  When I asked about it there is apparently a difference in the taste of a gin martini that has been shaken with ice vs. stirred with ice.

Try it you may be surprised.

  • 3 ounces gin
  • Dry vermouth
  • Green olives or twist of lemon peel

Swank Cocktail Club - the martini - a supreme American gift to world culture

Overall GRR rating: 6.5

total bill: $32 for 3 expertly made martinis

dislike: price

likes: drinking with Don Draper by the fireplace

crowd: cougarish out-of-towners and dudes with briefcases

re-visit potential: not likely but I could totes see Tarantino filming a scene where Samuel L. Jackson serves an underage Saoirse Ronan as they discuss the new Keith Richards biography when another patron (Penelope Cruz) gets up from a rear-facing Eames and shoots Jackson in the face.

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Filed under Beverage, Katie

Getting Real about the 50 Best College Bars in America

What statistic is more important to college students heading back to campus right now than their current US News and World Report Ranking?

State Street Brats - Madison WI

Whether or not their local watering hole made it in’s “50 best college bars in America”

What I am happy to report is that the Big 10 had a very strong showing with 6 schools repped in the top 20.  Madison and Penn State even had 2 shout outs.  Noticeably absent were Michigan State, Purdue, U of Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa.  I guess those schools have little work to do in the drinking dept.

Should I be proud that future Big 10 member Nebraska was listed as having the #1 college bar in America?  I’m going to go ahead and say yes for now.  And speaking as someone who has actually visited Lincoln NE, I will say that I was pleasantly surprised at what a chill college town it turned out to be.

Here’s the important stuff for those of you keeping track…

1.  Duffy’s Tavern – Lincoln, NE

5. Kilroy’s on Kirkwood – Bloomington, IN

9. The Keg – Northwestern

12. Out-R-Inn – Ohio State

14. Good Time Charley’s – Ann Arbor, Michigan

15. All American Rathskeller – Penn State

18. State Street Brats – Madison, WI

34. Phyrst – Penn State

37. Kollege Klub – Madison, WI


Filed under Beverage, Katie, Travel

Getting Real about the picture-perfect Pimm’s Cup

On a recent trip to London, I rediscovered the magic that is Pimm’s Cup. Often served by the pitcher, Pimm’s Cup is a super-summery, fruit-laden drink that cools you off and gives you a nice “I could be punting down a river at Oxford” feeling. Sadly, it never quite made it big across the pond much to the chagrin of American sorority girls who have been forced to drink Mike’s Hard Lemonade when they needed a lemony-but-alcoholic-but-still-girly thirst quencher.

Here are the Pimm's Cups that we made on the Fourth of July (to celebrate the revolution)

So how can you make the perfect Pimm’s for your next summer picnic? Here’s how I like it:

  • A shot of Pimms (Pimms is a gin-based liqueur that is sometimes hard to find at your corner store or Safeway. Bev-Mo or other larger stores should stock it.)
  • 7-Up or ginger ale. (In the UK, they call 7-Up “lemonade”. Don’t be fooled, folks.)
  • Diced cucumbers, strawberries, and apples (much like Sangria, the fruit is the best – and most alcohol-soaked – part)
  • Lots of ice.

That’s it! Stir well and enjoy with friends 🙂


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Filed under Beverage, Ramya

Getting Real about Napa

One of the many perks of living in the bay area is proximity to wine country. Last weekend I took advantage of this fact and spent a sunny afternoon in Napa. First, I must note that I much prefer Sonoma to Napa. While both are chalk full of tourists, the former seems to get the slightly less obnoxious variety and tastings that are more reasonably priced. If you want to feel like you are at a vineyard, go to Sonoma, if you want to feel like you are at a resort, complete with perfectly trimmed foliage and fancy fountains, Napa’s the place. Having said that, Napa does have its worthwhile charms.

My friends and I headed north with a cooler full of picnic goodies, ready to sample some vino. What we found was wineries that had the worst of Napa, and some that had the best. The first winery we hit was Artesia. It’s situated up high in the hills with stunning views and (yes) fancy fountains. Plenty of fancy fountains. The staff however was very down to earth and approachable, using colorful language (“this one is like a punch in the jaw”) and serving up the wine with a smile. Almost every wine I had there was delicious. Their dessert wine was to.die.for. Yum.

Our next stop was a bit of a disappointment. Plump Jack is well known in Napa, and they also are affiliated with some popular restaurants in San Francisco. Maybe that’s why the vibe there was a bit too cool for school. The guy pouring our wine seemed very uninterested and spouted off wine descriptions like a robot. Additionally, there was a tv inside the tasting room playing Jaws 2, which was both incredibly distracting and utterly unappetizing. Do you want to be looking at bloody shark attacks as you sip your Zinfandel? Didn’t think so.  

Our third stop was the winery Clos du Val, rumored to have a great picnic area. We were looking forward to picking out a few bottles to buy and enjoy with our picnic. But then. The tasting room was extremely chaotic and loud, and the man pouring the wine seemed irritated that we were taking too long to chose a tasting. Then he proceeds to talk down to me when describing the wine. My friend asked him to tell us about the Pinot Noir we were tasting and he looked at us and said, “well do you know what a Pinot is?” Ok, I’m no wine connoisseur, but I worked in an Italian restaurant with an extensive wine list for a few years, so I know the basics. Don’t need the sass, thank you. I ask him how the Rose is and he answers, “pink”. Right. Well here is a better description for you dear readers: crap. Literally every wine I tried there was average at best. Poor service and mediocre wine. Feel free to skip this spot on your Napa tour.

The last winery we came across was Alpha Omega. Yes it was shiny and pretty (and it had a fountain), but the staff was incredibly friendly. Pauline, our host, took us through a delicious tasting, giving us a taste of 3 additional wines that weren’t even on the menu. She was attentive, gave great descriptions and recommendations, and made us feel super welcome. Downside: tastings are expensive, $20. Upside: tasting fee is waived with the purchase of a bottle. We got a few bottles of sauvignon blanc (crisp and refreshing) and one bottle of rose (fruity, but dry) and sat in the sunshine on one of their many picnic tables sipping, and eating and having a grand ‘ol time. Gold star for Alpha Omega. What are your favorite Napa spots?

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Filed under Beverage, Flora

Getting Real about your Starbucks name

After listening to a npr report this week about people ordering coffee under fake names I couldn’t resist myself when I walked into Starbucks this morning.  The line ahead of me was long, full of Europeans trying to order Americanos with names like Lucca and Fabio.  I started to get nervous about announcing my new name to the barista.  Would he question me?  What if he asked to see ID?  What would be an acceptable fake name for someone like myself?  Something like Sarah or Rachel?  But those are boring names, if this was my one opportunity to give myself a new name I wanted it to be daring and bold, like Roxanne or Trinity.

Finally my turn came, my hands were shaking trying to pull a $5 bill out of my wallet and I belted out “a tall latte for LIZZY please!”

Lizzy?!  Where did that come from?  Oh well I’ll take it.

I suggest you all try it, surprisingly liberating.


Filed under Beverage, Katie