Mixed Drinks

Making Vermouth:
How one winemaker turned “failure” into a successful product

Elaine Chukan Brown

winemaker Dan Petroski

VERMOUTH TENDS TO BE thought of as an apt blender in a martini—a second thought to making a fine cocktail. Its history as a modern beverage dates back to the 1800s and is celebrated on its own, as well, and as an integral part of a robust food and wine culture in Europe. Recently, the beverage has gained some notoriety as part of the craft spirits boom in the United States. Small-batch vermouth has cropped up across the continent with domestic examples appearing from wine regions in New York, Oregon, California and elsewhere.

In Napa, Massican Winery’s vermouth has become a beloved staple of the wine-geek community and has found its way into bars in California and New York. Massican owner and winemaker Dan Petroski brought his love for Italian culture, food and wine to making his dry, white wine-focused brand. Several years ago, however, a mishap in the cellar led to him adding dry vermouth to the portfolio.

As Petroski explains, as an aromatized wine, vermouth offers an interesting opportunity for the vintner unsure of what to do with a less desirable wine.

Wine Mishaps

“The vermouth started out as a trial with Tocai,” Petroski said. “The vermouth was never meant to be. It was purely a wine trial, but in failure we saw an opportunity.”

Though the white wine variety Tocai Friulano has been legally renamed Friulano to avoid international naming confusion, it is still affectionately referred to simply as Tocai in Northeastern Italy. In Friuli, Friulano is one of the signature grapes of the region. In California, Petroski has been able to work with hundred-year-old vines of the cultivar first established by Italian immigrants farming the variety for their own use. Such fruit serves as an integral component of Massican’s flagship white blend, the Annia. It also ended up providing the base for his vermouth.

In working with Friulano for Annia, Petroski wanted to investigate different methods of clarifying the juice prior to fermentation, but the trial led to an off-wine.

“Tocai is a very reductive variety,” Petroski said. “It is important to clarify the juice prior to fermentation in order to ensure clean aromas and flavors. We wanted to test this process. After whole-cluster pressing the Tocai to tank, we mixed the tank and immediately barreled down one barrel—55 gallons—of wine. We cold settled the juice at 50° F for two days and racked off the clean wine. The remaining heavy lees and sediment…

To keep reading this article turn to the February issue of Wine Business MonthlyThe rest of the article looks at Dan’s process in formulating his own vermouth, the basic process for making your own vermouth, and key lessons Dan thinks anyone wanting to experiment should keep in mind.

In the print edition the article appears on page 118. However, you can also view it for free online by either downloading the entire February issue as PDF, or using their online click book option. The article appears on page 118 in each of the electronic versions as well. 

Here’s the link to download the February issue or use the click book: 



Tips from Celebrated Bartender, Christopher Longoria

Christopher Longoria

Christopher Longoria, photo courtesy of 1760

“It depends on what you want from a cocktail.” Christopher Longoria, celebrated Bar Program Manager at the ingredient-driven restaurant 1760 in San Francisco, tells me. “Are you trying to showcase the aperitif, or using a characteristic of it to make something else?”

Known for his creative approach, Longoria relies less on recipes for cocktail classics when behind the bar, and more on a culinary style, thinking first in terms of aromas and textures, to mix drinks. He is advising me on the art of mixing cocktails made from aperitif wines.

Recent years have brought a small boon in California artisanal aperitifs made by small-scale wineries. Longoria has found that these fortified wines, such as vermouth and chinato, offer an advantage behind the bar. Cocktails made from spirits tend to be less aromatic while also higher in alcohol but aperitif wines are able to offer a lot of character at lower proof.

A California Product

Matthiasson 2011 Flora Vermouth

Vermouth in particular has garnered recent attention. Vya and Sutton Cellars hold the spot as two of the most significant examples of American vermouth. Vya makes a range of styles from sweet, to dry, and extra dry, while Sutton Cellars gives a sweet version carrying both citrus and bitter elements.

More recently other small-scale examples have come out of Napa. Last year, Matthiasson released a sweet vermouth tasting of blood orange and coriander, while Massican has now released several vintages of dry vermouth offering a lighter body with citrus and floral notes.

“I use vermouth for different characteristics,” Longoria explains. “It tends to be good for aromatics, and depending on the vermouth, I will use it to make a silky texture.” The type of vermouth makes a difference in how to approach it, Longoria explains. The style – sweet to dry – also relates to the aperitifs weight on the palate.

“A sweet vermouth,” Longoria explains, “acts as the foundation of a drink. It gives it body, earthiness and sweetness.” When mixing with sweet vermouth you want your other ingredients to be lighter bodied, while also complementing the vermouth aroma and flavor. A bit of dry vermouth mixed with sweet can help focus the character of the final beverage.

“Dry vermouth is good for finishing a drink, tightening it up without drying it out,” Longoria tells me. “I use just a touch of dry vermouth to pull the body back in if I use something that would be too rich on its own.” As a result, the drink finishes clean in the mouth, leaving your palate ready for a different experience with the next cocktail.

More unusual aperitifs perfect for mixing have also cropped up in California.

Palmina Chinato

In Santa Barbara County, Palmina delivers a small production chinato made with the winery‘s Nebbiolo, and flavored with locally grown ingredients.

In Sonoma, Vivier Wines has created what might be the only Pineau des Charentes in the United States under the name Sexton-Vivier – made in honor of both the winemaker’s grandmother and his wife. By fortifying pressed juice, rather than already fermented wine, the drink retains a sense of freshness along with a sweet, herbal element.

Cocktails at Home

Sexton Vivier 2012 Pineau des Charentes

How to use artisanal aperitifs at home? Start simple, and play, Longoria says.

“You can take a classic cocktail, and switch up a key ingredient.” Longoria suggests. “Chinato can be used to make a black Manhattan. It works in mixed drinks like a darker, more herbaceous amaro.”

Similarly, Matthiasson vermouth works well in a negroni bringing out a blood orange element that gives the drink a new twist. The Massican or Sexton-Vivier, on the other hand, offer each a decidedly different take on a martini.

“When it comes to gin and vermouth,” or other mid-weight aperitifs, like the Pineau, Longoria explains, “consider the aroma. Gins tend to be really aromatic. If you want to play that up, go with an apertif with complementary aromatics. Or if you want the gin to be the focus, go with a milder one.”

The viscosity also comes into play. In the case of the Sexton-Vivier, its fuller body brings a sweet note to a gin martini, while the Massican keeps a lighter bodied focus on lifted aromatics.

“Making mixed drinks at home,” Longoria says, “it’s all about playing with the ingredients, and getting the palate attuned to it. Start with small portions, and get familiar with your components before you mix them. Figure out what you like, and mix from there.”

Christopher Longoria offered the following tips to get started making mixed drinks from artisanal aperitifs at home, and a recipe for Massican, an off-dry vermouth with a focus on delicate citrus and floral elements.

Massican 2012 Vermouth

Tips for Mixing Aperitif Cocktails at Home

  • Get Familiar with your aperitif on its own – it’s aroma, viscosity, and level of sweetness
  • Mix small portions first
  • Think of a sweet aperitif as the body of your cocktail, then mix with lighter bodied aperitifs or spirits with complementary aromas to accent it
  • Think of a dry aperitif as a way to tighten the body and finish of other ingredients
  • Don’t be afraid to mix different aperitifs together for a low-proof cocktail

Here’s a recipe from Christopher Longoria using the Massican Vermouth.


Apertivo by Christopher Longoria

Apertivo without ice, photo courtesy of Christopher Longoria

.75 oz Massican Vermouth
.75 oz Bertina Elderflower
2 dashes orange bitters

Add ice, if desired. Stir.

Top with 1 oz. Marotti Campi Brut Rosé.
May also be topped with a Blanc Brut Cava for slightly less fruit flavor.


Copyright 2015 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.


Nonino Grappa Cocktails

Gritti Palace Hotelthe bar at the Gritti Palace, Venice

Fall’s cooler weather, and aromatic breezes proves a perfect time to shift to warming aromatic cocktails. Part of the Nonino project instigated by the three daughters has been working with mixologists around the world to create unique cocktails using the Nonino distillates.

The monovarietal grappas, and grape distillates by Nonino offer a unique opportunity to play with distinct varietal characteristics. Their distillation process captures grape aromatics in what Giannola Nonino calls “a crystalline purity.” The flavors of each grappa reflects the character of the grape type used, with warmer blue floral notes lifting from the glass in the merlot distillate, and distinctly yellow flower and warm hay aromas for the chardonnay. Nonino’s first monovarietal, picolit, remains my favorite.

The Gioiello, their honey distillate made from acacia honey, too carries trademark flavors of autumn. It’s a beautifully nutty, forest floral aromatic that’s both warming, and spiced on the palate. A lovely sipping cocktail on its own.

Nonino, of course, also makes a tasty amaro that’s great over ice, or in a cocktail as shown below.

While visiting Venice last year we were able to meet several mixologists who were kind enough to share their recipes with me for three of my favorite Nonino cocktails. Each of the three recipes following are easy enough to make at home, and perfect for Fall weather with flavors of apple, rose, and herbal infusions.

(Some of the drinks they showcased brilliantly involved infused aromatic tea smoke, and other complicated ingredients. I don’t keep a vaporizer at home.)


Nonino Frozen, Mixologist Davide Girardi, Udine

Mixologist Davide GirardiMixologist Davide Girardi

Nonino Frozen
Mixologist Davide Girardi, Udine

5 cl Amaro Nonino Quintessentia
Soda Water
1 lime
cane sugar
2 mint leaves

Muddle and pound 1/4 of a lime with 2 spoonfuls of cane sugar.
Fill a glass with crushed ice, and Amaro Nonino Quintessentia, and top it up with soda water.
Mix it energetically in the glass in which it is to be served, and decorate it with mint leaves.

Passion Nonino, Barman Mirko Falconi, Gritti Palace, Venice

DSC_0383Barman Mirko Falconi in the library of the Gritti Palace

Passion Nonino
Barman Mirko Falconi, Gritti Palace, Venice

3 cl Grappa Nonino Cru Monovitigno Fragolino
1.5 cl white Cinzano
0.5 cl Aperol
1 cl passion fruit juice
1 cl rose syrup

Shake all ingredients except for the grappa.
Once shaken, pour in a mixing glass,add ice, and the grappa.
Stir slowly and serve in a chilled cocktail glass.
Decorate with peels of apple, melon, and pumpkin.

This cocktail is a lot of fun to play with switching up which flavor of the monovarietal grappa, and what type of fruit juice too. For example, the Picolit grappa works well with pineapple juice.

Nonino Cool, Head Barman Gennaro Florio, VeniceHead Barman Gennaro Florio Gennaro Florio, Venice

Nonino Cool
Head Barman Gennaro Florio

4cl Grappa Nonino Cru Monovitigno Fragolino
3cl Sour Apple liqueur
1 Tbsp blossom honey
drops of squeezed lime

Caramelize seasonal fruit (apple works well) in Grappa Nonino Monovitigno Moscato and cane sugar to use as garnish.

Shake all ingredients, and fill without ice into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with caramelized fruit.


Copyright 2014 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com


Listening to Giannola Nonino

A year ago a few of us were lucky enough to share two days with the Nonino family. The Noninos are the most well known grappa producers in Italy, known for a series of innovations in production that succeeded in raising the status of grappa worldwide.

While Benito Nonino distilled the grappa, his wife Giannola developed many of the ideas, and packaging that helped raised Benito’s work to such prominence. Today their three daughters are thoroughly involved in running Nonino, and have gone on to continue the tradition of innovation and quality. After working on it for a decade, the three daughters succeeded at figuring out how to distill honey, for example.

If you don’t already know how grappa is made, you can check out my Behind the Scenes at Nonino piece over at Serious Eats, here

While with the Nonino family, Cathy Huyghe and I asked Giannola to share more of her story. Jeremy Parzen translated. The following is a transcript of her story as translated by Jeremy. She begins by speaking of her family history as the foundation of the work she did for Nonino, as well as for how she raised their children.

Giannola’s Family

Ginola Nonino“It’s really important to start this story by telling the education I received from my parents. My father was very learned, well read. They were children of immigrants.

“My grandfather, at the end of the 19th c. immigrated to Argentina from Italy. He was part of a big wave of immigration to Argentina. My father was born in Argentina, then came back to Italy. At the end of the 19th c. a lot of people went hungry in Friuli. There was a lot of suffering. My grandfather left Cividale all by himself.

“Thanks to the priest from Cividale he met his wife. He went to the priest in Argentina and said, I want to get married. I am in Argentina. I want to marry a nice girl with her head on her shoulders. The priest in Argentina wrote to a priest in Cividale. So thanks to the priest from Cividale, and another in Argentina, all by letter, he found a wife.

“He had gone to Argentina so he would put food on the table. You got off the boat in Argentina and they gave you a plow. They said, you can pick land. You put stakes around the land, and work as much as you want.

“My grandma left Italy without knowing anything about this person. They would meet at the other side of the journey, and when she said goodbye to family she didn’t know if she would ever see them again. This is what hunger and poverty did to people. They were forced to make such decisions.

“My grandfather was successful, and finally able to come back to Friuli with my father. At the time my father was 25 years old. He opened a small factory, made plows, and farming equipment. My father for this reason was a great lover of this land.

“He bought land in Percoto, Italy. At that point, my father had a company with 60 workers. At the same time, my father was a very sensitive person, and well read. He began to study customs, and traditions of Friuli. From the time I was very little we were going out and learning about Friuli tradition. That’s how as a young child I learned about indigenous grape varieties of the area.”

Giannola Nonino helped to preserve, and reestablish farming of indigenous varieties in Friuli. They had been illegal, and her work with farmers, and outreach to politicians helped instigate legal changes that supported the reestablishment of indigenous varieties in the region.

To further this cause she conceived of the Nonino Prize for those growing indigenous grape varieties. Paolo Rapuzzi of Ronchi di Cialla famously won the Nonino Prize for his saving Schioppettino by hunting feral vines in the hills along the Friuli-Slovenia border.

Giannola Nonino“My parents taught us how to behave in the world. We were raised not to just be frivolous girls in the world. Our identity was in our intelligence, and how we conveyed our intelligence. We were determined our projects should be conceived without hurting anyone, and we knew we could overcome any obstacle. Never give up.

“I was not a good mother. I was severe. I would try to give them what they wanted but there were rules, and they needed to follow. They had to be good at school, to study. They had to be obedient, and from when they were very little they would get in the truck with me, and we would look for pomace [to make grappa]. But from third grade, they never went to bed without me checking their homework.

“The first thing to give your children is affection. The most important thing is affection. But then you have to teach them how to respect themselves, and how to respect others. You have to do well in school, and you have to play, and when you grow up you should do a job you really enjoy because if you don’t enjoy it it’s going to weigh on you.

“I know I love my children more than anything in the world but I never lost track that they would respect themselves, and respect others. As a mother you want to give them everything but you have to teach your children that anything they receive takes a lot of energy. Other people have put a lot of energy into whatever it is we have.

“My father is the one that gave the knowledge of our land, and the love of our culture to me. But above all he valued keeping alive all of this knowledge because otherwise the cost is the loss of our identity. Just like what she does.” Giannola points to me referencing an earlier conversation, “sending her daughter back to Alaska where her whole family is from. Otherwise all of these roots would just die in the street.

“In a society like we are living now, in the entire world, this is the foundation of this loss of security our children have, this loss of knowledge.

“That is my advice. Convey to your children that knowledge of your land, and your people. It is without this knowledge we cannot live like real people. It is without this that we fight and we kill each other. It is with this knowledge we live as real people.

” I believe my father, as the son of an immigrant who became an immigrant himself is someone who, the values are even stronger in him.

“What I give to my children, and what my grandparents give to me, the knowledge of family, is the most valuable thing we can have.

Growing Nonino Grappa

DSC_0424“First I fell in love with my husband, Benito, then I fell in love with his job. I call it the art of distillery. I hope you have felt the same emotion I felt the first time I watched distillation happening. From that moment I wanted to learn how to distill. It is a magical thing to take the grape, and turn it into a crystalline distillate of the grape.

“The first of December 1973 we made the first monovarietal distillate of Picolit. At noon sharp on that first of December 1973 as the first drops of the grappa came, I drew them to my nose, and I knew our experiment had succeeded.”

Nonino was the first in history to make monovarietal grappa. Winemaking in the region previously made mixed white wine, and mixed red wine without separating grape types. Because grappa is made with the grape pommace, after the wine is pressed from the skins, the material available depended on the style of winemaking already established.

Making a single varietal grappa in order to celebrate the varieties indigenous to the region was Giannola’s idea. She worked with farmer’s wives through the region, offering to pay them in addition to paying the husbands for the grapes in order to secure pommace separated by grape type. 

Prior to Nonino’s innovations with monovarietal grappa, grappa was seen only as a worker’s distillate, not as a drink for finer tables. Giannola also worked to change that attitude.

“It occurred to me at that time that consumers that had a snobby attitude about grappa, they needed to taste this grappa. If we sold it as a normal grappa, they would have refused to taste it. At that time we did not even talk about marketing or talk about packaging. I realized if I put it into a refined container that would make the consumer curious. Then they would taste it, and fall in love with it.

“So we put the grappa in the old medicinal style bottles, and had the label that described which grape variety and its qualities, and the bottles were individually numbered as well, and it was like the bottle had an ID card as well that came with it. All of these qualities together gave our grappa the right to be considered top quality. The packaging was just a means to an end, teaching the public about the quality of our grappa.

“In 1975 we created the Nonino Prize in order to save indigenous grape varieties of Friuli. It was forbidden at that time to grow them. From 1975 to 8 we worked to save, rescue those varieties. Then the law changed, and it became a literary prize. The literary prize started as a way to document realities of farm life in Friuli. Industrial culture may die, but the death of rural farming culture would also be the death of all humanity.”

The Nonino familythe Nonino Family, from left: Giannola, Cristina, Antonella, Elisabeta, Benito Nonino

“My daughters were with me even during the night. My daughters were born in the pommace. All we did was talk about grappa grappa grappa. They fell in love with work.

“Benito and I traveled through the best places for wine in Europe. We decided to make an artisanal distillery for our daughters so whenever the need arose, our daughters would know how to distill because they did it with their own hands. That is when we invented the UE grape distillate, a distillate from skin, and juice, and pulp, and grapes. The UE has the elegance of wine, the aromas and characters and flavors of skins.”

Grappa is made with grape pommace, that is after the wine has been pressed off the skins, what is left is distilled into grappa. The Noninos were the first to distill the entire grape in what they call their UE.

“In 2000, our daughters, so that they would not be outdone by their parents created honey distillate, Gioiello, which was extremely difficult. It was a huge victory for them to prove to themselves that they could achieve the same greatness as their parents.

“As a woman, I always had to battle because I was so determined, and I knew the high quality of grappa my husband produced. I decided we were going to make my husband the greatest distillate in the world. So, in the mid-1960s I started a battle to transform grappa from Cinderella to a quality distillate. I did it thanks to my determination, and especially because my husband is the best distiller in the world.

“He has such intimate knowledge of the raw material, and created a special still to preserve the aromas and flavors, and he is never entirely satisfied, always to make it better and better. I believe one of the qualities that helped us transform, the number one thing we were hoping to achieve was never perfect but the attainment of absolute quality of the best grappa.

“My first trip to New York, I did not speak English, and had no translator but wanted to tell my story. So in front of a mirror I memorized the story in English, and I understood the expression I had to make. I practiced again and again, and it was a great success.

“These were the grapes my father taught me to love. I had to preserve them, or I would have betrayed the values my father taught me to love. Twenty years later, our daughters, we have given them the value of our land, and they have become even more rigorous.

“My story is a story of passion. If I was born again, I would do it the same again.”

Copyright 2014 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com


The History of Peruvian Pisco

Peruvian Pisco celebrates a long history joining the cultures of Europe with those of South America, as well as North America. As the story goes, grape distillation practices used in Spain were brought to the New World along with cuttings for grape vines. Peru began growing and selling wine as early as the 16th century, and is known to have begun making Pisco from freshly made wine as early as the 17th century. The advent of mining in the New World helped spread Pisco throughout the colonies, with boats taking the beverage all the way North into what is now known as California in the 18th century.

Chilé claims the famous Pisco Sour as its national beverage. However, methods for making Chilean and Peruvian Pisco differ significantly. There has also been contestation over where the distilled drink originates. History rests on the side of Peru for Pisco beginning there prior to in Chilé but, ultimately, Chilean Pisco is simply a different beverage that shares the name with one made in Peru. All of that said, there are some wonderful drinks to make with Chilean Pisco, which I’ll focus on in a future post.

An important element that separates the two National types rests in government regulations around Pisco production. Peru maintains strict controls on what can count as Pisco with a focus on developing a pure expression of the grapes used. No water can be added for diluting the alcohol levels. No sugars can be added to increase alcohol levels or alter flavor. No additives of any kind are allowed. After distillation is complete, Pisco must be held at least three months to allow for the flavors and composition of the beverage to settle. However, such aging must occur in a vessel that does not impact the purity of flavor — stainless steel or glass are most commonly used. Wood is not allowed.

How Peruvian Pisco is Madeclick on image to enlarge

The beauty of Pisco rests in its pure aromatic expression of the grape. Peruvian Pisco in particular focuses on creating an ultra clean presentation through the methods used in production. Because distillation separates the alcohol from the heavier liquids, a clean distillation process can greatly increase the aromatics of the materials distilled. With this in mind, Peruvian Pisco must be made from a just-fermented, or “young,” wine. Producers focused on quality also sort their grapes to use only the finest, cleanest fruit. In order to reduce any sense of harsh aromatics, producers focused on quality also de-stem clusters prior to pressing. Further, Peruvian Pisco must be made with only vessels that do not impart their own aromatic qualities. That is, no wood is allowed in the process.

Style of Peruvian Pisco

There are essentially four types of Peruvian Pisco.

The two primary distinctions make Pisco either as a single-varietal distillate, or a blended one. Taking the first option, the most straightforward is the Pisco Puro, which distills wine made from only one variety into an ultra clean expression of the grape. Pisco can also be made as a blend of any of the eight varieties allowed in Peruvian Pisco. This style is called Pisco Acholado. Blending can occur prior to fermentation, or before or after distillation.

The eight varieties are recognized as four, which are considered to be overtly aromatic grapes — Moscatel, Albilla, Italia, Torontel — and four that, in comparison, are less so, and so called non-aromatic — Quebranta, Negra Criolla, Mollar, Uvina. A third style of Pisco, the Pisco Aromáticas, is made from any of the four aromatic grapes, with a particular focus on preserving and expressing their aromatic aspects. A Pisco Aromáticas generally also turns out to be a Pisco Acholado, that is a blended style Pisco.

The fourth style of Pisco less commonly leaves Peru than the other three. Pisco Mosto Verde may be made with any of the grape varieties, and with a single grape or a blend. What is important here is that the young wine distilled to make the Pisco has not fermented all the way to dryness. Some residual sugar has been left in the wine, which gives the final Pisco a little more weight and smoothness on the palate, with a touch of sweetness. This style of Pisco is more commonly meant to sip on its own, rather than for blending in cocktails.

Three Piscos to Try

Macchu Pisco, Pisco Puro — Quebranta, 40%, $25 http://www.macchupisco.com/
A premium Pisco perfect for the Pisco Sour, the non-aromatic Puro style Pisco from Macchu Pisco keeps a strong focus on tradition, family, and quality in its production methods. The grapes are de-stemmed, then foot pressed (rather than hydraulic) with all seeds removed prior to fermentation to reduce any chance of bitterness. The result is an ultra clear, ultra clean lightly floral nose, with a citrus palate dancing with savory back notes and lots of freshness. The quality here is wonderful, and lifting.

La Diablada Pisco 2011 Achlado Pisco — Quebranta, Moscatel, Italia, Torontel, 40%, $40 http://www.macchupisco.com/
Another premium Pisco, this blend gives a lot of floral aromatic focus offering a mix of melon, stone-fruits (both cherries and peach), and touches of fruit spice. The name “La Diablada” refers to the dance of angels and demons fighting for balance. The Pisco itself seems to represent such a dance through its giving a pretty and elevated expression of a firey drink — there is no doubt this is alcohol but it’s pleasant. This Pisco does well for other styles of mixed drinks that bring in a range of fruit and spice flavors, or also other mixers, rather than the more singular Pisco Sour, which would overpower the subtlety here. The Pisco Punch would be a classic example.

Campo de Encanto, Acholado Pisco — Quebranta, Italia, Torontel, Moscatel, 40.5%, $35 http://www.encantopisco.com/
Focusing on the Pisco blend, the Campo de Encanto shows off citrus notes on the nose, while shifting to orchard fruit and flower alongside a fresh winter forest element on the palate. Apple plus almond flower and evergreen show up here giving a rich while lifted, fresh and energetic flavor to the Pisco. While the Campo de Encanto can work for a Pisco Sour, it suits blending for light fruit focused cocktails that step outside a singular citrus expression. The Pisco Punch is a classic example.

Drinking Peruvian Pisco

The Pisco Sour and the Pisco Punch are two classic cocktails but a ton can be done with Pisco. Though I’ve been playing with mixing Pisco drinks myself, I am going to refer you to cocktail recipes developed by others here.

The Classic Pisco Sour, from Imbibe Magazine:

Pisco Punch (invented originally in SF), from Pedro Miguel Schiaffino:

To play outside the classics, following are some recipes that will take advantage of the Acholado Pisco style.

An Andean Dusk, developed by Meaghan Dorman:

A TON of fun Pisco recipes great for Acholada Pisco, and some for Puro: http://www.thepiscobook.com/recipes



To read more on Pisco:

An article in PUNCH from Alia Akkam: http://punchdrink.com/articles/into-the-mystic-discovering-piscos-spiritual-roots/

An article in BEVERAGE JOURNAL from Robert Plotkin (including more recipes): http://www.beveragejournalinc.com/new/easyblog/entry/the-second-coming-of-pisco


Dedicated to Marilyn, David, Kelly, Mary, Mary, Alyssa. sniff.


Thanks to Melanie Asher. Thanks to Marilyn Krieger and David Greenberg.

Copyright 2014 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com



Matthiasson 2011 Napa Valley Vermouth

It isn’t everyday you get to sip a vineyard designate Vermouth. The Matthiassons are getting ready to release their first–a 2011 Flora based Vermouth from the Yount Mill Vineyard.

Flora stands as one of California’s unique varieties, designed in 1938 at a California based agricultural research facility as a cross between Semillon and Gewurtztraminer. The result gives a heady earth-spice to a lushly slick-bodied grape.

The Matthiassons chose Flora as the base for their dry Vermouth, generating the floral spice component on the nose followed by a savory (hinting at exotic) earth spice on the palate. The contrast between aroma and flavor on this Vermouth is part of its interest.

Matthiasson 2011 Vermouthclick on illustration to enlarge

The Matthiasson 2011 Napa Valley Yount Mill Vineyard Vermouth opens with a pretty nose of orchard fruit verging into erotic edges of floral spice and lift. The palate turns to show a savory spice and curved back of flavor with a medium long finish.

The Vermouth gives a rich caramel color in the glass generated from fermenting Flora on skins. This Matthiasson Vermouth is a celebration of Autumn as it rolls into cooler evenings. Enjoy it as a sipping drink on your own or even better with friends.


The Matthiassons are getting ready to release their 2011 Vermouth in the next few weeks. Keep an eye out for it on their website here: http://www.matthiasson.com/Purchase-Wine/Current-Offerings

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com


Criollo Hand Crafted Latin Inspired Local Food Restaurant and Bar Flagstaff, AZ

In the heart of downtown Flagstaff, Criollo Latin Kitchen, a casual dining restaurant, welcomes food lovers for brunch (on weekends), lunch, happy hour, and dinner.

The food is reliably tasty, drawing its inspiration from a sense of Latin fusion, and local, sustainably harvested ingredients. The upside of life in the Southwestern United States includes extended growing seasons, while also land locking us out of other items for local harvest. As a result, the menu at Criollo adjusts to these various needs to celebrate a blend of offerings that readily stretch across the year, with other seasonally determined foods, and a few treats flown in (like their cornmeal+coconut, instead of batter, rolled calamari).

The wine list at Criollo remains consistent with the Latin inspired focus, showcasing wines from across South America along with others from Spain or Portugal.

For those wanting only food for lighter fare, or just a drink, Criollo also showcases what turn out to be honestly some of the best bartenders in Flagstaff, as well as a bar stocked with quality liquors.

Getting to Know Criollo’s Bar: House-made Bitters, and Barrel Aged Tequila

* House-made Barrel Aged Tequila

Several months ago, Paul, the owner of Criollo, tasted barrel aged tequila and decided to invest in bringing the flavor to his Flagstaff bar. Seeing I was unsure how much difference the process would offer, Jeremy, one of Criollo’s bartenders offered me a before and after taste.

The bottle Republic Tequila offered flavors of citrus and cactus (we in the Southwest really do know what cactus tastes like, in case that sounds ridiculous to any of you–it’s a kind of pithy green, very lightly sweet touched, mild dirt, hint of bramble flavor), with a dusty heat.

To age their tequila, the bar has brought in a barrel originally used for aging bourbon. After acquiring the barrel they soaked it with water for several weeks, before then draining it and filling it with Republic Tequila.

The barrel aged tequila had significantly changed from its bottled sibling. The flavors had deepened and taken on earthier elements, with a woody character plus cinnamon and spice notes.

* House-made Bitters

Jeremy Meyer, Bar Co-Manager, Criollo

Criollo’s Bar showcases a selection of fine and flavored tequilas, plus a range of good quality cachaca (I love cachaca and its beloved capirihina), along with quality versions of more traditional liquors. In order to better celebrate the subtler flavor offerings of cachaca and tequila, bartender and bar co-manager, Jeremy Meyer, decided to begin exploring and studying mixed drink recipes that would show them off.

A traditional bar ingredient for cocktails like the Manhattan or Dark & Handsome is an herbal bitter to push against the sweet or syrupy elements of the liquor base. The herbal flavor of bitters like Angostura is desirable in darker flavored mixed drinks, like the Manhattan, but often works against the lighter notes of an alcohol like cachaca or tequila. So, Jeremy decided to begin making in house bitters from other ingredients that would be more flexible at the bar, and work alongside those lighter spirits.

The basic process for making bitters, Jeremy explains, consists of first selecting flavor ingredients and then soaking them in high alcohol booze like Everclear for approximately a month. At the end of the month the resulting product is drained and sometimes enhanced with other flavors.

Currently Criollo utilizes four types of house-made bitters most primarily–strawberry with black tea; ancho chili with tamarind; black pepper with black currant; and mesquite with pineapple. Additionally, Jeremy has also made orange with anise; and cherry with grapefruit peel. As summer progresses he intends to experiment with using other ingredients found at the local Farmer’s Market.

I asked Jeremy to select his favorite summer cocktail made from in house ingredients. He chose their Barrel Punch, and shared the recipe.

A Treat From Jeremy: The Barrel Punch, a Mixed Drink Recipe

The Barrel Punch, Criollo, Flagstaff

The Barrel Punch

1 1/2 ounces House-made Barrel Aged Tequila

3/4 ounce Blackberry Balsamic Shrub (explanation follows)

4 dashes House-made Mesquite-Pineapple Bitters (explanation follows)

A squeeze of Lime

Fill the glass with soda water, then box (move between glass and shaker and back again). Pour into glass.

Top with 3 drops of Rose Water.


The Barrel Punch is a fresh, light, rich flavored, and not sweet cocktail that works beautifully for summer. It offers a light fruit and wood flavored opening, with a fruit vinegar mid-palate, and a fruit tang light rose finish. Though the flavors here are rich, the drink avoids any syrupy or too-sweet characteristics that would make it too heavy for summer. I very much enjoyed it.

Blackberry Balsalmic Shrub

As Jeremy explains, a shrub is an old fashioned way to preserve fruit. The fruit is smashed into sugar, then the resulting syrup is drained and mixed with vinegar. Here the shrub is made with equal parts fruit, sugar, and vinegar, with blackberries, and a blend of 1/2 balsamic vinegar 1/2 apple cider vinegar.

Mesquite-Pineapple Bitters

To really push the envelope, Jeremy decided to try making bitters with safe ingredients that aren’t traditionally thought of in relation to food.

The mesquite-pineapple bitters were made by soaking wood chips and pineapple in a blend of 1/2 Everclear 1/2 tequila for a month. At the end of the month the resulting drink was strained. Then, Jeremy grilled mesquite wood chips (the same kind soaked to make the bitters), put them out in the bitters themselves to add an ashen smoke element, then restrained the entire concoction, and finally added agave syrup to help bring out the pineapple flavors without adding genuine sweetness.

Finally (for now) the Bar Expands: House-made Tonic, and Vermouth

As if Criollo wasn’t already offering a host of house-made bar options, they are also making in house tonic and vermouth. Both focus on utilizing the ingredients available here in Flagstaff, including those brought in to the area by the local herbal shop, Winter Sun. Jeremy explained that in developing the following recipes Winter Sun’s owner and long time herbalist, Phyllis, was very helpful.

The tonic results from a mix of Peruvian bark powder, lemon grass, agave syrup, coriander, and lemon/lime zest and juice.

The vermouth is a local favorite. Jeremy explains he researched a typical recipe for making the spirit only to discover a number of the ingredients simply were not readily available in our small mountain town. He addressed the problem by simply adjusting to utilize local plants and herbs as substitute. Criollo’s house vermouth, as a result, draws on the flavors of Ocho root (good for the lungs), Juniper berries (a diuretic and good for fighting infection), and Mormon tea (a decongestant and stimulant), along with the more traditional elements of basil, rosemary, thyme, and citrus zest. It’s fabulous (and I’ve never been huge on mainstream vermouth). It turns out Phyllis is also a fan, even having been a bit skeptical of Jeremy’s plans originally.


For those of you in Flagstaff, get in to Criollo to try the unique offerings at their bar. For those of you visiting the area, definitely keep Criollo on your list of places to enjoy.

Criollo Latin Kitchen, 16 N San Francisco, Flagstaff, AZ 86001 928-774-0541 http://criollolatinkitchen.com/

Thank you to Criollo, Hillary Wamble, and Jeremy Meyer for inviting me to taste Jeremy’s bitters, and Criollo’s other house-made offerings.

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