Du Jardin

I’ve successfully grown one whole cucumber in my garden this year.

Well, there were more than that, but our dog, Roxiegirl, has a vegetable addiction. One summer, we left her overnight and this is what happened to my broccoli plants.

Before Roxie found my broccoli.
Before Roxie found my broccoli…
…and after she found my broccoli.

Anyway, I snatched the one cucumber she was kind enough to leave on the vine and harvested some basil leaves for this summery, garden cocktail.

DU JARDIN [from the garden]

In a glass:

  • One inch grated cucumber
  • 4-5 leaves basil, rinsed

Muddle to release the basil oils

  • One and a half ounces Martini Bianco

Fill with tonic water and ice cubes.

Garnish with a cucumber slice.

^^Oh, look!^^An amateur video of me making a mess!^^

Its freshness is perfect for a hot, late afternoon aperitif and invigorates the palate for the upcoming dinner. The crispness of the cucumber mingles with the savory basil and the bitter citrus & vanilla notes of the Martini Bianco vermouth rounds it out.

In the States, we would never think to use a vermouth as the base of the cocktail. Before I moved to Europe, if someone had suggested drinking a straight vermouth, I would have gagged a little. On one of my visits home I was relieving a buffalo wings craving and asked for a Rosso vermouth on ice. It took the bartender and the bar manager and the general manager about twenty minutes to figure out how to charge me for it because it’s never more than a garnish in most American cocktails.6a00e553b3da20883401b7c7915b89970b

Vermouth is a fortified wine – a wine base that has been (with endless proprietary blends)  flavored with fruits, herbs, or spices (aka botanicals) and then distilled and sweetened. Since the wine has gone through a distillation process, it stops evolving, allowing it to be kept for longer periods of time.

It’s a shame that it’s almost always found on the bottom shelf in the gin section. Thanks to Bond, James Bond the martini drinkers in America seem to be the only ones buying it and just the extra-dry versions. A touch is poured into a glass, swished around, and then dumped out adding a hint of the herbal flavors to the vodka or gin. The original purpose of this spirit was to make a medicinal tonic more palatable – that whole “spoon full of sugar” concept. The various botanicals that flavor the spirit were prescribed by European doctors to calm the ailments of their patients.

If you hesitate to purchase a bottle of vermouth because you know it’ll collect dust in the back of the cabinet, fear not! Many brands sell 375ml sizes. Be aware, though, the smaller the bottle, the less value for your money. A regular 750ml bottle is not going to be expensive and there are endless ways you can use it – add a splash to your next pasta sauce, your tomatoes du jardin will thank you.



Tournevis Cassis

Evidemment, je suis la responsable de l’heure de l’apéritif chez nous. Hier soir, quand j’ai demandé à Monsieur ce qu’il voudrait, il me dit une vodka orange .  En Amérique, nous appelons ce cocktail un Screwdriver (tournevis).  C’est le cocktail le plus feignant. Il faut même pas une pensée pour mixer vodka et jus d’orange sauf si l’on veut y ajouter des glaçons. Il ennuie les barmans dans le monde entier.

Je voulais respecter son envie, mais j’ai décidé de l’améliorer a ma façon. J’ai donc créé le




Une poignée de glaçons

Une ounce (30ml) vodka

Une demi-ounce (15ml) cassis liqueur

Ajouter tous les ingrédients dans un blender et pulser jusqu’à obtenir une consistance mousseuse.  Verser dans un grand verre et servir.

Tu vois? Simple mais mieux!



Obviously, I’m in charge of the cocktail hour at our house. Last night when I asked Monsieur what he would like, he told me that he was in the mood for a vodka / orange juice.
A screwdriver: the cop-out of the mixed drink world. There is absolutely no thought needed to combine vodka and orange juice except to determine whether or not there will be ice cubes. It bores the heck out of bartenders the world over.
I wanted to respect his preference, but I decided to spruce it up a bit, so I created the
Tournevis [pronounced tour.nah.veese] is the French word for screwdriver. Cassis [Kah.seese] is a black currant berry.


Handful ice cubes

1 ounce vodka

1/2 ounce cassis liqueur

8 ounces orange juice

In a blender add all of the ingredients and pulse until a froth develops. Pour into a tall rocks glass and serve.

You see? Simple, but better!


Domaine Chiroulet Vieil Armagnac Resérve 15 ans

For the first installment of “What’s in My Decanter” I was in the mood for Armagnac.

Never heard of it? You’re not alone if you live outside of France, so here is a brief overview:

Brandy is a spirit distilled from a fruit wine. Armagnac and Cognac are both brandies made from white grape wines. The longer a spirit sits in the barrel, the more smooth and complex it becomes, but once it is ‘in-bottle’ the evolution stops. Armagnac differs from Cognac in a couple of ways:

  1. Cognac comes from the village of Cognac in Charente and Armagnac comes from the village of Armagnac in Gascony. This is going to effect the terrior (a sense of place detected in the finished product). The climate and soil are different in the towns so the types of grapes used and the minerality will often be noticable.
  2. Cognac is distilled in pot stills twice where Armagnac is distilled in column stills one time. The more you distill, the more the impurities are removed. Why wouldn’t one want to remove all impurities if possible? Because that’s also where the flavor comes from, otherwise we’d have vodka.

    A pot still at Pierre Ferrand Cognac. Ars, France
    A pot still at Pierre Ferrand Cognac. Ars, France
  3. Cognac is always blended from multiple barrels and (or) vintages to attain a consistant flavor. Everytime Kanye picks up a bottle of Hennessey he knows what to expect. Armagnac artisans tend to prefer creating unique profiles and will often bottle a selection as a vintage (single harvest year). This is why there is less produced and why you are less likely to find a huge selection of Armagnac brands outside of France.

Domaine Chiroulet is situated on the highest point of Armagnac with a south-facing vineyard exposure. They produce both red and white wines and armagnac. Find more information and photos by clicking the link.


Domaine Chiroulet Resérve 15 ans 30-50€

Tasting Notes: The color is a dark amber with orange reflects. On the nose, I picked out orange peel and caramel notes. It has a medium bodied mouth-feel with the perfect amount of heat to tickle your nose on the first sip and the flavors were of toffee, medium roast coffee beans and vanilla. The finish was a long, five seconds.

IMG_2617  <<Still figuring out how to upload videos. Just click the link.

I prefer to drink armagnac out of a champagne flute to take advantage of the delicate nose. And it’s always better paired with a book and a chimney fire!!

3 out of 5 stars