Sunday evening my bubbly friend and I attended Cocktail School at River and Rail Restaurant in Roanoke, Virginia. Our talented “Cocktail Professors” were Devon Steiner, Manager and Sous Chef John Diaz (pictured above) of River and Rail.
We started the evening with Veuve Ambal Blanc de Blancs Brut sparkling wine. A lovely apéritif, crisp, dry, with notes of fresh apple and a touch of honey. A lively little sparkler!
A bit of history about this bubbly from http://devinewine.com.au
Maison Veuve Ambal was founded in the heart of Burgundy in 1898, by Veuve Marie Ambal, widow of a Parisian banker. Marie returned to Rully to join her brother, a wine lover and wine broker, to make wine at the time “method traditionelle” was being introduced for sparkling wines. The wines immediately gained recognition, and her grandson Charles Roux Ambal, followed by his grandson and current President Eric Piffaut, have continued to build on Marie’s philosophy of quality, and the combination of tradition and modernity which is the signature of Veuve Ambal. With over 200 hectares of vineyards across Burgundy, mainly planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Veuve Ambal remain leaders in the production of sparkling wines today.
One of the reasons that River and Rail’s Strawberry Daiquiri tastes so good…they make the daiquiri with strawberry shrub (pictured above). A shrub is a vinegar-based syrup and referred to as “Drinking Vinegar”. Drinking vinegar is often infused with fruit juice, herbs and spices for use in mixed drinks. Devon and Chef John recommend adding ingredients to match the season such as clove and cinnamon during the holidays. Our shrub had a little orange zest in it. My bubbly friend and I determined that the shrub made the daquiri taste not as syrupy sweet as commercial mixes which was refreshing. They recommended serving the daiquiri in a chilled coupe glass. Double straining with a cocktail strainer is a good idea for this drink to remove any ice crystals. Always use fresh juices in your cocktails, it’s worth the little bit of extra effort.
River and Rail Strawberry Shrub
Wash and slice 1# strawberries
Cover with 2 cups granulated sugar, stir to coat evenly
Let this sit with a breathable cover (cheesecloth) for 24-48 hours
Strain syrup through fine mesh strainer or use coffee filter
Add red wine vinegar to taste (Devon likes 2/3 cup for this recipe)
Pour into mason jar and refrigerate. Over time, the shrub will mellow out and flavors marry
- Experiment with citrus, spices and vinegars
- Great in nonalcoholic beverages as well
River and Rail Strawberry Daiquiri
2 ounces rum
1 ounce lime juice
1 ounce strawberry shrub
1 dash rhubarb bitters
Add ice to shaker, shake hard, double strain into coupe glass. Optional garnish: Thin lime wheel, strawberry or cherry
River and Rail Bourbon Sour
1.5 ounces bourbon
.75 ounces simple syrup
.75 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
Add ice to shaker, shake hard, strain into rocks glass
Sour mix: DO NOT BUY STORE SOUR, make your own. Equal parts lemon juice to simple syrup. Simple syrup: 1 cup sugar + 1 cup boiling water = 1.5 cups simple syrup. Refrigerate up to 1 month.
June 6 – June 12, 2016 was National Negroni Week. Here’s a link to some fun information about this Italian cocktail: https://www.thrillist.com/drink/nation/negroni-cocktail-facts-history-negroni-week
They recommend serving this cocktail over a “big rock” (large ice cube that fills the glass). Do not shake this cocktail because shaking bruises the botanicals in the gin.
River and Rail Negroni
1 ounce gin
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 oz. Campari
Combine over ice, stir until glass is frosty, about 30 stirs. Serve over ice or up. Garnish: Orange Peel
Finished this lovely evening on the patio under the stars with this bottle of bubbly: Tendil & Lombardi Blanc de Noirs Champagne.
100 % pinot noir champagne. Creamy mousse, crisp apple and raspberry notes with a hint of toast. Wine Spectator rated this champagne “90 points”.