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Saturday, March 10, 2018

Fast Pours for a Good Cause

Posted By on Sat, Mar 10, 2018 at 12:27 PM

Sarah Barry at El Cortijo - SALLY POLLAK
  • Sally Pollak
  • Sarah Barry at El Cortijo
At El Cortijo Taqueria y Cantina in Burlington,  where Sarah Barry is general manager and a bartender, she can mix a margarita in less than 60 seconds.

"I bet anyone who works behind the bar here can make a margarita in under a minute," said Barry, noting that the bar is set up for margarita-making. Pouring an old-fashioned could take up to two minutes, she said.

The time it takes to mix a drink is on Barry's mind as she anticipates competing in Speed Rack, a women-only bartending contest coming to Boston on Sunday, March 11.  Barry will be the only Vermont competitor among about two dozen female bartenders.

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Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Bartenders Petition to Change Rules on House-Infused Spirits

Posted By on Wed, Feb 7, 2018 at 6:12 PM

Glug cocktail at Leunig's Bistro & Cafe - COURTESY OF SARAH BARRY
  • Courtesy of Sarah Barry
  • Glug cocktail at Leunig's Bistro & Cafe
A petition circulated by local bartenders that seeks to amend a state liquor regulation has gained more than 400 signatures in 24 hours.

The petition is an effort to change a Vermont Department of Liquor Control regulation that prohibits adulterating or tampering with alcohol after its manufacture. In practical terms, this means a bartender cannot infuse spirits with ingredients, flavors, herbs or spices — a common practice that is part of mixing a craft cocktail.

"Cocktails are cuisine,"  said Stewart Dunoskovic, a bartender at
Leunig's Bistro & Cafe who signed the petition.  "A bartender is similar to a chef in what they do. And anything that restricts what we can do with those products, restricts what you get to drink at the end of the day."

The change called for by the petition would "update a regulation to the practice, to what's going on," Dunoskovic said. "We're not doing anything in the shadows.  We're not doing anything new. These are common practices: Customers love it; bartenders love it."

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Thursday, December 21, 2017

It's Time to Eat, Drink Eggnog and Be Merry

Posted By on Thu, Dec 21, 2017 at 8:00 AM

  • Suzanne Podhaizer
  • Eggnog
The drink from which eggnog is derived is most likely the medicinal medieval "posset," milk mixed with wine or ale, and seasoned with nutmeg and cinnamon.

Nobody is exactly sure when eggnog got its name, but we do know that it was drunk in America during the 1700s, and that George Washington served an extra-boozy version — laced with brandy, rye whiskey, rum and sherry — to guests.

I'll happily drink nog at any time of year, but it's a must around the winter holidays. You could go full George Washington, or try this variation.

Serves 8, or just one, depending on level of gluttony

  • 12 eggs, separated (use fresh, local eggs, because they'll be consumed raw*)
  • 1 quart creamline milk
  • 1 pint heavy cream (I like Butterworks)
  • 2/3 cup sugar plus 2 teaspoons (or swap in maple syrup, to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg, plus extra to garnish
  • a couple pinches salt
  • bourbon to taste
  • Reserving egg whites for later, whisk the egg yolks until lightened in color.
  • Add milk, cream, 2/3 cup sugar, nutmeg and salt. Whisk until uniform in color and texture.
  • Beat egg whites, along with 2 teaspoons sugar, to soft peaks. Stir into eggnog.
  • Chill. The nog will be a bit foamy on top.
  • Pour into glasses, and stir in as much bourbon as you'd like
  • Garnish with nutmeg
*If you're not comfortable eating raw eggs or are concerned about your immune system, don't make this recipe!

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Stonecutter Spirits Hosts Adventure Dinners Across Vermont

Posted By on Mon, Jul 17, 2017 at 7:51 PM

Adventure Dinner 2017 - JULIA CLANCY
  • Julia Clancy
  • Adventure Dinner 2017
Stonecutter Spirits’ third annual Adventure Dinner began last Saturday, July 15, on a road inside 200 acres of Sunrise Orchards’ apple groves. The sun was beaming in Cornwall, although three hours earlier the sky had opened up with torrential rainstorms and a thick, slick coat of mud glazed the outskirts of the orchards. Guests came aptly prepared, wearing hiking shoes and rain boots with their nice linen shirts. It was an “Adventure Dinner,” after all. Folks were game.

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Burlington Bartender Wins Most Imaginative in Northeast at Contest in Boston

Posted By on Thu, Jun 8, 2017 at 1:42 PM

Eddie DiDonato at Leunig's - SALLY POLLAK
  • Sally Pollak
  • Eddie DiDonato at Leunig's
Six years after he graduated from Saint Michael's College, Eddie DiDonato pulled an all-nighter. The bartender, who works at Leunig's Bistro & Cafe and Waterworks, was up until 4 a.m. Monday to prepare for a cocktail competition in Boston.

After a few hours' sleep, he loaded his gear into his car, stopped at Tomgirl Juice Co. to pick up some wildflower-cashew milk, and drove to Boston to compete in the Most Imaginative Bartender contest. The annual event is presented by Bombay Sapphire gin,  which is a required ingredient in the competing cocktails.

The cashew milk — and gin — were key ingredients in DiDonato's drink, a cocktail he concocted called Tiger's Milk. With it, he bested a field of 10 bartenders from around the Northeast to win the regional contest.  DiDonato will compete in the North American Most Imaginative Bartender (MIB) final in late August in London.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Drink Up: A Local Gimlet and the LXXV

Posted By on Tue, Jul 12, 2016 at 5:00 AM

The Barr Hill Gin Gimlet at American Flatbread, Middlebury Hearth - JULIA CLANCY
  • Julia Clancy
  • The Barr Hill Gin Gimlet at American Flatbread, Middlebury Hearth
I live exactly 0.3 miles from American Flatbread in Middlebury. It's a five-minute stroll past Frog Hollow Alley to the creaky bridge over Otter Creek, a pathway lit by gas lamps after dark. I often find myself retreating to Flatbread's shaded back patio to share a bottle of cider, or bellied up to the wraparound wooden bar for a couple of drafts and a "Pepperoni and Peppers" to split.

I usually go to the beer list, but Middlebury Hearth's recently released summer cocktail menu has swayed my habits. Created specifically for the location by Steve Boyce, a former bartender and current Flatbread co-owner, the list of carefully crafted drinks extends the restaurant's ethos for local, sustainable, and made-in-house fare. 

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Stonecutter Spirits Hosts a Whiskey-Release Party

Posted By on Tue, Jun 28, 2016 at 11:06 AM

Sas Stewart making a cocktail - SUZANNE PODHAIZER
  • Suzanne Podhaizer
  • Sas Stewart making a cocktail
The Stonecutter Spirits headquarters in Middlebury is an impressive place: cool and modern, with plenty of poured concrete and brushed metal.  But in the aging room, the casks and the hush more resemble a medieval monastery. 

I was there last Friday for a whiskey-release party. Stonecutter has been experimenting with blending booze-making techniques from different traditions, and its Heritage Cask Whiskey is the most recent result.

As co-owner Sas Stewart put it, the spirit is distilled like a bourbon, aged like an Irish whiskey, and finished in wine barrels like a Scotch.

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Summer Sauce: Cool Down With These Boozy Beverages

Posted By on Tue, Jun 3, 2014 at 1:51 PM

Keven Ring assembles a 1791 Manhattan. - COURTESY OF SIMON PEARCE
  • Courtesy of Simon Pearce
  • Keven Ring assembles a 1791 Manhattan.

Give me a crisp, clear-liquor drink with a splash of something sparkling, sweet or sour, or a glittering glass of chilled rosé, and I'll take that drink and raise you a sunny summer afternoon. With warm weather starting to sink in, I'm dreaming of fuzzy, buzzy Sundays, bobbing with icy bevvies in glasses sweating with condensation. 

But what bevvies, specifically? Every season has its signature beverage, and, seeking boozy inspiration, I hit up a few of Vermont's wine and cocktail pros with two simple questions: What are you drinking right now, and what's your forecast for drinking this summer? 

Catch their answers after the jump. 

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Grazing: Country-politan with Boggy Meadow 'Switchel' Cider Vodka

Posted By on Fri, Jan 17, 2014 at 7:55 PM


Vodka is the most infused of spirits. Berries, orange peel, citron, black pepper, chili peppers and vanilla beans all meet their ends in its clear depths, and drinkers never seem to tire of these infusions. Until now, though, no one (as far as I can tell) has thought to blend the clear spirit with apple cider and ... vinegar?

Yes. Vodka infused with vinegar may sound gross, but it actually echoes a drink that harks back hundreds of years. During the long haying days of the 1600s and 1700s, New England farmers often supped on blends of ginger, apple cider, spices and vinegar. This drink was known as "switchel," and it's undergoing something of a revival.

Boggy Meadow's cloudy, ochre-colored "Switchel" cider vodka is definitely unorthodox, but may not be so unusual two or three years from now. I've tried it in myriad vodka-cocktail ways — in a traditional martini with a twist; in a sherry martini; in a bracing Black Magic, with coffee liqueur and a spritz of lemon juice. All were delicious.

Its smoothest incarnation, though, may be a locavore riff on the Cosmopolitan. Switchel cider vodka lends a tangy twist to this blend of vodka, Triple Sec, cranberry and fresh-squeezed lime juice. It's a softer, brighter and more distinctive version of the original Cosmo — especially when blended with local cranberry liqueur. I've dubbed it the Country-politan.

Recipe below.

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Should Vermont Lift the Ban on Happy Hours? Watchdog.org Thinks So

Posted By on Thu, Dec 5, 2013 at 4:30 PM


A website called Watchdog.org has published an article suggesting that the Vermont ban on happy hours — selling drinks at lower prices during certain times — is economically illogical.

Writer Jon Street quoted the owner of Burlington's Ake's Place, Ronnie Ryan, who suggested that the state should allow bars to lure in customers with occasional happy hours.

“Burlington is so rich in young professionals and college students, I’m confident it would help business, and if it helps our business it also helps the state as it will generate more money in taxes,” he said.

Bill Goggins, director of education, licensing and enforcement for the Vermont Department of Liquor Control, broadly explained the role of the state government in keeping people safe, while a fellow at the Cato Institute lamented, “Why should Vermont insert itself between deals that please restaurants and customers alike?”

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