February 2012

Love at First Sight


A lot can happen in ten minutes. Our eight panelists would agree. Enter the mixologist, sporting a specific brand. His or her task: Make us fall, head over heels, for a sentimental interpretation of a drink. And quick. Whether we sip through rose-colored glasses, or idealize a version of a Dirty Martini, make it magical. Make it a Love Potion.

The panelists: (left to right, standing) Anthony Schmidt,  Mike Yen, William Bloxsom-Carter,
Meridith May and Chris McInerny; (seated) Anthony Dias Blue, Rio Sabadicci and Jeff Josenhans.

The following notes are a compilation from the panel, commenting on the cocktails that caused their hearts to flutter.

Where:  GRANT GRILL at the U.S. Grant Hotel, San Diego

THE TASTING PANEL Magazine challenged 13 spirits brands to get romantic and conjure up a heat-seeking missile of a cocktail for our SPEED TASTING event.   

The San Diego Panel

Anthony Dias Blue: Editor-in-Chief, THE TASTING PANEL Magazine
Meridith May: Publisher/Executive Editor, THE TASTING PANEL Magazine
Jeff Josenhans: Mixologist/Director of Beverage Outlets, U.S. Grant Hotel
Mike Yen: Mixologist, L’Auberge, San Diego
Rio Sabadicci: Founder, Vinturi Aerator Company
Anthony Schmidt: Mixologist, Noble Experiment
Chris McInerney: Owner, Emerald Spirits (retailer)
William Bloxsom-Carter: Executive Chef/F&B Director, Playboy Enterprises

Four Roses Brand Ambassador and Historian Al Young is down on hands and knees for mixologist Erin Williams.


The Proposal

The Mixologist:
Erin Williams, Hotel Palomar, San Diego

The Brand: Four Roses Bourbon

It was a corsage of four roses that would inspire a marriage proposal—and a brand—in the middle of the 19th century. Since Four Roses Single Barrel bourbon won a Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2010, it has been on our radar, as has Master Distiller Jim Rutledge.

The Potion:
  • 2 oz. Four Roses Small Batch 90-proof Bourbon
  • ¼ oz. French Herbal Liqueur
  • ¼ oz. Cherry Liqueur
  • ¼ oz. Averna Amaro
  • 2 dashes Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters
  • 1 tsp fig preserve
  • Stir and press a lemon peel against the rim. Add grated cinnamon.
“Putting its petals to the mettle, it’s not a question of she loves me, she loves me not. We loved this drink.” —Meridith May

“The bourbon notes are up front, followed by layers of complex aromatics. Now this is Southern hospitality.” —Jeff Josenhans

Romance at the malt shoppe inspired this retro drink, created by San Diego’s Blind Tiger Cocktail company team of Adam Stemmler, Jen Queen and Dustin Haarstad.


The Sadie Hawkins

The Mixologists:
Blind Tiger Cocktail Company

The Brand: Marie Brizard Chocolat Royal Liqueur

Sadie Hawkins Day may have been created in a comic strip, but it instilled in women the courage to ask men’s hands in marriage . . . or just to go out on a date. Based on the Flip, this Love Potion turns the tables for womenfolk in an old-school setting: the malt shoppe. The main ingredient is Marie Brizard Chocolat Royal liqueur, a 34-proof cordial from one of the world’s oldest flavor-makers.

The Sadie Hawkins.

The Potion:
  • ½ oz. Marie Brizard Chocolat
  • Royal liqueur
  • 1 oz. Sobieski vodka, flash-infused with Penang clove and grapefruit zes
  • ½ oz. Luxardo Maraschino liqueur reduction with cognac, nutmeg, cinnamon and clove
  • ½ oz. heavy whipping cream
  • 1 egg
  • Simple syrup foam of Branca Menta
  •   Dry shake and serve in a milk shake glass with two (or three) straws.

“Many levels of ecstasy . . . the cherry reduction is heavenly.” —Chris McInerny

“This should be on bar lists for Valentine’s Day—what a treat!” —Rio Sabadicci

Pascal Courtin and Kimberly Nocella of Sidney Frank Importing Company in front of The Grant Grill, our Love Potion headquarters.

Lovers in the Orchard

The Mixologist: Sidney Frank Importing’s Pascal Courtin

The Brand: Geikkekan Zipang Sparkling Saké

A naturally carbonated sparkling saké is not only a rarity, but the pop-top bottle and 14 proof makes it so accessible. Light, yeasty, floral and refreshing, Zipang hails from Japan’s top-selling saké-maker. Geikkekan’s 400 years and 14 generations of saké brewing is what great lovers are all about: experience!

Lovers in the Orchard made with Zipang Sparkling Saké.

The Potion:

  • 1 oz.Asian Citrus Vodka
  • ¼ oz. Thatcher’s Blood Orange Artisan Liqueur
  • ¼ oz. Yuzu Puree
  • Top off with a pour of Geikkekan Zipang Sparkling Saké and a
  • lemon twist.
“An element of roses wafts through a mélange of citrus in this gorgeously tempting bubbly.” —William Bloxsom-Carter

“Smooth, peachy and rich: a great, stylish presentation.” —Rio Sabadicci 

From Tequilas Premium, John Hanson, Arturo Lomeli and Mike McGinnis.

The Double Diamond

The Mixologist: Mike McGinnis

The Brand: La Pinta Pomegranate Infused Tequila

If a trip to Tiffany’s doesn’t work this Valentine’s Day, then go for a double diamond—namely, this divine cocktail based on La Pinta, a passionate infusion of Clase Azul Tequila with pomegranate (symbol of love and fertility). In its brand new packaging, THE TASTING PANEL awards 38-proof La Pinta an A+ for design. The beautiful white wraparound label resembles the white ceramic bottles associated with statuesque Clase Azul Tequila Reposado.

The Double Diamond.
The Potion:

created by Tim Stevens at Prohibition, San Diego

  • 1 1/5 oz. La Pinta Pomegranate Tequila
  • 1/5 oz. Torres Brandy
  • 1/5 oz. Apricot Liqueur
  • 1/5 oz. egg whites
  • 1/5 oz. simple syrup
  • Peychaud’s Bitters
  • Mint and blueberries for garnish
  • Mix first five ingredients in shaker (a malt mixer gets the fizz going) and pour in goblet style glass. Add two dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters. Garnish with mint and skewer of blueberries.

“The ingredients marry perfectly. The drink is smooth, rich and generously textured. The pomegranate and spice is memorable.” – Anthony Dias Blue

“A tasty tequila treat for Valentine’s Day and beyond. The Citrus and apricot notes accent a deeper pomegranate (and tequila) profile.” – Jeff Josenhans 

Mixologist Darren McKnight of PJ’s Pub in San Diego.


Prosciutto e Crop Martini

The Mixologist: Darren McKnight of PJ’s Pub, San Diego

The Brand: Crop Organic Tomato Vodka

Finger foods are sexy, especially when you hand feed your beloved. Put a dish of prosciutto and melon in front of me and I twist the wafer thin strips of cured meat around a slice and savor every bite. So why not make a finger-licking drink? Crop Organic Tomato vodka may have been conceived as the base for the perfect Bloody Mary, but in this delectable drink, the 100% organic wheat spirit brings back the Martini as appetizer.

Prosciutto e Crop Martini.

The Potion:
  • 1½ oz. Crop Organic Tomato Vodka
  • 8 organically grown basil leaves
  • 1 slice of organic cantaloupe
  • 1 generous slice of Primo prosciutto
  • Two or three stuffed green olives
  • Muddle basil; shake and strain. Add olives.

“The balanced flavors highlight the smoothness and authentic tomato flavors of the vodka. Fresh and delicious!” —Mike Yen

“Lunchtime foreplay! Salty, savory and spicy.”  —Chris McInerny 

Mixologist Joel Black and The Temperate Affair.


The Temperate Affair

The Mixologist: Joel Black

The Brand: The Original Moonshine

By the time you’re calling your affair “temperate,” you’re ready to call things off . . . or it’s time to start heating things up again. And in your case, it may be a potent brew of copper-pot-still moonshine that puts a spell back on your loved one to turns things torrid again. Read more about The Original Moonshine in our story on page 100.

The Potion:
  • 2 oz. The Original Moonshine
  • ¾ oz. fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ oz. homemade pomegranate-cranberry tea syrup
  • 1 oz. Bing cherry juice
  • Grated cinnamon and nutmeg
  • 1 egg white
  • Shake and pour. Top with 3 drops of Angostura Bitters and spread with a spoon.

“Bright, sweet and lemon-edged. The moonshine integrates well with every ingredient.” —Anthony Dias Blue

“Creamy and elegant and wonderfully layered: a masculine love potion.” —Chris McInerny

T he XO Chocolate Rose.


XO Chocolate Rose

The Mixologist: Grant Berentsen

The Brand: Patrón XO Café Coffee Liqueur

Every note from your lover should be signed with hugs and kisses, written in shorthand as “XOXOXO.”  Patrón put hugs and kisses into making this 100% agave 70-proof silver tequila–based coffee liqueur (even the coffee beans are soaked in Patrón Silver)that is as good as a stand-alone as it is coupled with the simplest of ingredients, as in this amorous tipple.

The Potion:
  • One part Patrón XO Café
  • One part half & half
  •  Rim glass with pre-chilled chocolate syrup.
  • Garnish with a red rose.

“A simple yet elegantly designed cocktail that translates as much to the home kitchen as it does to a busy bar.” —Jeff Josenhans

“Like drinking mocha ice cream, with added complexity.” —Rio Sabadicci

“Great for Playmates!” —William Bloxsom-Carter

Paul Zahn, Voli Spirits Brand Manager, Western Division and Andrew Pfeffer, Voli Spirits Vice President, Western Division, with Bill Anderson, Southern California Spirits Ambassador, Palm Bay Spirits.

Hot & Dirty Martini

The Mixologists: Paul Zahn and Andrew Pfeffer

The Brand: Voli Lyte Vodka

With love comes a few sacrifices: giving up sweets, trips to the gym, expensive Pilates lessons. But the outcome is a nearly perfect body to show off to your significant other. Powered by electrolytes, with lower (60-proof) alcohol, natural flavors and low calories, Voli Lyte makes Hot & Dirty your middle name. This drink is only 135 calories. Go get ‘em, tiger.

The Hot & Dirty Martini.

The Potion:

  • 2½ oz. Voli Lyte vodka
  • ¼ oz. Cinzano Vermouth
  • ½ oz. olive juice
  • Dash of Tabasco Sauce
  • Shake and strain into a Martini glass and garnish with olives.

“Spicy and rich. This is a serious cocktail: Sign me up.” —Rio Sabadicci

“A smooth, burnless vodka that gets its temperature raised from that dash of Tabasco. Good work!” —Mike Yen 

The New Vinturi Spirit Aerator—instantly aerates fine spirits and enhances their flavor and hidden nuances. 


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