Superfruit Spritzer

Who says red wine is the only drink good for your health?
superfruit spritzer |
This deep ruby little beauty has all the antioxidants a healthy and refreshing summer cocktail needs. Gin-based, my Superfruit Spritzer gets its gorgeous color from a berry-bonanza of dark fruits with fresh muddled blueberries (loaded with good stuff for you) and this Acai Black Currant SuperFruit Syrup™  from Sonoma Syrup Co. It’s an all-natural fruit syrup that’s handcrafted in Sonoma in small batches and made with pure cane sugar and superfruits. A double dose of good-for-you ingredients packed into a decadent and deeeelicious sip that’s perfect for those lazy afternoons when doing nothing is everything.
superfruit spritzer |
blueberries | superfruit spritzer |
acai & black currant superfruit syrup | sonoma syrup co. |
acai & black currant superfruit syrup | sonoma syrup co. |

Açaí (pronounced ‘ah-sigh-ee’), a purplish grape-like berry from a palm tree, originated deep in the Brazilian Amazon and is chocked full of powerful nutrients making it one of the world’s best energy sources for the body. And its syrup buddy, the black currant, is rich in Vitamin C, amino acids, and heaps of other beneficial antioxidants. Granted, currants don’t often get the glory from the health world its partner here does, so why not give it some love – cocktail style- by incorporating its sweet & tart flavor along side the subtle floral notes of a great Gin. I like to think drinking this berry patch in a glass is you and I doing something good for our health–which means we can have two right? Oh, and btw, this syrup is also pretty darn yummy on pancakes too….just sayin’. Cheers!

Superfruit Spritzer
yield one drink | Superfruit Spritzer PDF

1/4 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (approx. 16-18 berries, depending on size)
1 jigger Sonoma Syrup Co. Acai Black Currant SuperFruit Syrup™
2 jiggers Gin (I used Damrak for its light, clean flavor)
1/2 jigger Cinzano Rosso
Seltzer or club soda for topping
Blueberries & mint for garnish

Add 1/4 cup blueberries to a shaker. Muddle gently until they release their juice. Add in a couple of ice cubes along with Syrup, Gin, and Cinzano Rosso. Shake well. Strain into tumbler glass over ice. Top with seltzer water or club soda. Garnish with blueberries and mint leaf.

* I’ve been using Sonoma Syrup Co. products for years, so I already love their line. They recently gifted me a few of their syrups and extracts, but all opinions, text, photography are my own.

Spirit Works At The Barlow


Last weekend I had the great pleasure of visiting a micro-distillery in the newer artisan retail community called The Barlow. Here resides Spirit Works Distillery which specializes in hand-crafted Vodka, Gin, Sloe Gin and in the not-to-distant future, they’ll be releasing small-batch Rye Whiskey as well. What a treat it was to head out to the bucolic town of Sebastopol, CA to see first-hand how specialty spirits are produced.

As you may have seen from a couple of previous posts (Tonic Water: The Unsung Hero, Dirty Gin & Tonic Shortbread), that I’m a Gin-girl through and through. So the thought of being able to taste, touch, see, and smell where and how one of my most favorite elixirs was produced, had me giddy from the get-go. My poor friend who I dragged with me was clearly not as excited as I was about the fact we were soon to be immersed in a world of juniper (Gin’s not her favourite). But as soon as I mentioned there was going to be Vodka…well, that apparently was the magic word. Her ears perked up and with spirit-renewed (pun absolutely intended) off we went!

SpiritWorks_Still3   SpiritWorks_Still1
Copper Still imported from Germany

We arrived into a dimly lit, cozy tasting lounge at the front of the production facility and were warmly greeted by our hostess and tour guide, Lauren. She gave us an expertly narrated and in-depth tour of how each process of the distilling was done. Having been in the wine industry for over 15 years, I’m all too familiar with tanks, fermenters, oak barrels and alike but I must say, this small but mighty operation has it all dialed in. From their imported German copper stills, to their own grain mill, to their proprietary blend of botanicals (and it’s not the usual stuff, trust me) to the specific Missouri-oak barrels they commission for their emerging whiskey program (and some experimental barrel-aged Gin projects too – count me in!), Spirit Works is truly a labour of love for the owners & distillers Timo and Ashby Marshall. 

Ashby and Timo Marshall (and Bandit)

We were so fortunate to have Timo join our tour as we got to the aging room. As we were oohing and awing over the barrels, he let us in on a little secret behind a neat experiment going on with musical vibrations as it relates to the molecular development of the liquid (spirit). Don’t worry, this will be a Chemistry 101-type explanation otherwise I wouldn’t be able to follow it myself. But I must say,  it was fascinating to hear how they are attempting to create differences in finished flavor profiles of identical barrel lots just from the genre of music that’s “played” to them. So picture this: a bunch of barrels stacked on top of each other. One barrel has a set of headphones stretched over it with an ipod dangling playing the blue grass beats of The Devil Makes Three, another is being serenaded by the classical score of The Nutcracker- and yet a third barrel is grooving to the tunes of  Santigold. The method to the madness is that from the subtle vibrations generated by the frequencies of the musical style, it causes minut shifts in the interior liquid, thereby integrating a higher proportion of the liquid to the oak. Well, that quickly shifted to AP-level speak, sorry! But you get the idea right? The more movement in the barrel, the more the spirit comes in contact with the wood and then actually changes the fundamental taste when it ultimately hits the glass in your Manhattan. Very cool!

Ok, now for the drinking part (my personal favorite). We finished the tour back in the tasting room and were treated to sips of each spirit. We started with the Vodka, then Gin and finally the Sloe Gin:

spirit works family shot-428x256



Here are my tasting notes:

Vodka: smooth, clean, hints of citrus. Full, round mid palate with a silky finish. I must confess– I’m not usually a Vodka drinker because frankly, I like to taste my spirits in a drink. With most Vodka brands, I have a tough time discerning its contribution in flavor to the finished cocktail. But this one expertly walks the fine line of a discreet “hello” when arriving to the party without becoming obnoxious  or overbearing.

Gin: floral and herbaceous on the nose with definite warm notes from the cardamom and coriander –two of several components in their secret blend. Mid- palate was complex with traditional juniper flavors but a nice addition of citrus peeks through to complement the clean finish. This is a Gin I would very much enjoy “neat” so as to savor its layered nuances.

Sloe Gin: one of the best I’ve tasted. This spirit is so misunderstood and woefully under-used. If it’s done right, Sloe Gin is a wonderful digestif solo, but also makes an excellent based for many cocktails of bygone days. This bottling is elegant, understated yet explodes on the palate with plum, red raspberry and citrus. Complexity in flavor beckons one to savor each sip and the lingering finish leaves you wanting more.

As part of the tour we received a little gifty at the end. I chose the mini cocktail book (of course) and to my utter delight, it contained a Gin Flavor Wheel. This folks is exactly why I love the world of food and drinks as I had no idea such a thing even existed. There ya go, I learn something everyday. DSC_0115- gin wheel
So this weekend I will be geeking-out by opening all my Gins in the house and re-tasting with the Gin Wheel in hand. Sounds crazy doesn’t it, but I can think of a lot worse things than spending a night-in drinking my favorite spirit. Not my idea of a bad time at all.

I should mention I didn’t take pictures whilst there,  so all the photos are courtesy Spirit Works (thank you!). Theirs are much better than mine would have been anyway!

Tours & Tastings Fri-Sun at 4pm | 707.634.4793


Tonic Water: The Unsung Hero

Q tonic and fevertree tonic | When I was much, much younger and drinking G&T’s in pubs (well before I ought to have been if truth be told),  I was given the secret of the how to make the perfect version of this classic and why the choice of tonic is so important.  I’ll get to that in a minute.  But first,  as I’m writing this I’m struck by a couple of things 1) I thank the barkeep for introducing me to this elegant spirit;  can’t imagine cocktails without it and 2) wonder how on earth I would ever have been served, given the fact I was probably about 14 or 15 at the time. Well, s’pose times were different back then. I chalk it up to one of many adventures abroad.

So why was I in England drinking in pubs you ask? Well, my English Mom and her family are partial to this drink and it was often the beverage of choice when stopping in at the “local” or as an end-of-day-tipple before we sat down to our evening meal with my grandparents.  Whenever I think of my late Grandad, three fond memories come to mind:  Scrabble, Altoids and Gin & Tonics.
fevertree and Q tonic waters |
martin millers westbourne strength gin |

plymouth gin |
dirty gin and tonic |

Ok, back to the secret.  It was on one of those such times when our family was frequenting the local, that the barkeep noticed my intent enthusiasm for the drink-making process. He showed me (insert best British accent here) the “proper way”  to make a Gin & Tonic.

  • always serve in a rocks glass, never a high-ball
  • no more than 3 ice cubes
  • ALWAYS pour a splash of tonic water over the ice first, NEVER the Gin first as it will “bruise” upon touching the ice
  • 1 & 1/2 parts (no less) Gin of choice- British of course!
  • complete the drink with just a splash more of the BEST QUALITY tonic water.  The flavors of the tonic are just as important as the Gin itself
  • Twist of lemon, never lime

His mixology lesson has stayed with me over the years, and as a true G&T snob (yes I admit it),  thought I’d take the opportunity to share my favorite tonic waters with you. These are just a few, but there are dozens of small-batch blends out there. I chose the ones most accessible throughout the country. These are classified as “premium” tonics. Which means they are generally sold in beverage retailers or gourmet groceries. Yes, they are more expensive when compared to their non-premium counterparts, but there is NO comparison in taste, and how it shapes the final flavors of the cocktail once married with Gin. Splash out and try these. Heck, if you’ve spent the money on a really good Gin, then spend it on the tonic too…it will make a difference.
fevertree tonics |

Listed in order of preference:
Fever-Tree Premium Indian Tonic- fresh, clean with citrus aromatics. The flavor is soft and subtle. The citrus and fruit notes are balanced but the bitterness of the quinine. The finish is also clean, slightly sweet but not saccharin-sweet like so many other non-premium tonics. Pair with Martin Millers, Hendrick’s, or Junipero.

Fever-Tree Naturally Light Indian Tonic-  citrus and fruit notes. The flavor is soft and subtle and fruit notes balance the bitterness of natural quinine. Slightly less sweet than Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water, the finish is clean & low calorie at only 21 calories. Pair with Tanquery No.10, Aviation, or Vivacity.

Q Tonic- clean and crisp with the quinine flavor much more prevalent (which I quite like). Finishes with a gentle rounded sweetness. I recommend you pair it with a strong floral Gin such as Plymouth or Damrak. The softer gins will be overpowered by the Q if you’re looking for a “gin” taste to come through.

Fentimans Tonic– this is pricy stuff (about $10-$12 for four 275ml bottles) but this is a treat. Organic grain base, milled quinine bark and lemongrass. It has a distinctly zesty flavor with the sharpness derived from the bitter, woody aromas of quinine bark. It’s mixed with a light dose of cane sugar to temper the strong flavors. Pair with Beefeater Burrough’s Reserve, Bloom, Hayman’s 1850 Reserve.

When I feel like bending the rules a bit, I make my G&T “dirty” by adding a bit of olive juice and a couple of olives.  And of course I choose my tonic carefully, dependent on the Gin being used. Serve along side a bowl of cashews and I’m one happy gal!
Pip, pip cheerio!
olive juice |

Note: photos retouched from original post