I have never previously ranked or put together a list of my top beverage experiences before, but then I can’t recall ever having as full and exciting a year of cocktails, spirits and wine as I had in 2016! This mirrored and in some cases overlapped my top dining experiences of 2016 with the beverage experiences being major contributors to those final rankings. Unlike my restaurant listings, these rankings are not limited to restaurants. Bar, winery and distillery visits also played major roles, affording extra-special experiences and tastings. The final rankings here were influenced by food only in so far as the food may have affected the enjoyment of the beverages. For example a great wine pairing is the result of synergy between wine and food and can’t be truly had without both being stellar independently and especially together. I enjoyed many a great pairing of food and wine in 2016, but for this list, only the most exceptional pairings were included. Other restaurant inclusions occurred due to the quality of individual wines, which had not necessarily been specifically paired for the meals. In most of those cases, the wines were special bottles that had been brought to the restaurant by me or others just for the occasion.
Not included on this list, despite the fun I have playing with cocktails myself are the cocktails I make at Rascal & Thorn, my wannabe private club/home bar (#rascalandthorn on Instgram). That said, I would like to acknowledge a few products that were new to me in 2016 that I really hd fun with. While I really enjoy playing and creating my own riffs and cocktails, I have really got into Shake, Stir, Sip by my friend, Kara Newman. It is a very approachable and useful book of cocktail recipes based on equal proportions. The recipes are excellent and I highly recommend the book for anyone with more than a passing interest in making cocktails. My favorite cocktail from the book, previously unknown to me is the Mildred Pierce, a refreshing citrus and mezcal delight originally created by New Orleans bartendress Abigail Gullo. Three new-to-me spirits that brought my bar extra pizzazz in 2016 included Giffard Pamplemousse Liqueur (see the Mildred Pierce), Plantation Pineapple Rum and Ancho Verde, all of which offered fresh flavors for cocktail creation. Continue reading