Meet Sauvage’s Chef, The Ambitious, Fiery, Producer-Obsessed Lisa Giffen

IMG_1511Greetings, and I hope your 4th of July weekend was filled with delicious food and wine! Just one update here: I’m sure some of you who live in New York have already checked out Sauvage, which opened recently in Greenpoint (if you haven’t, I recommend it!). I profiled the ambitious, young, producer-obsessed chef there, Lisa Giffen, for Food Republic. I really admire her forward-thinking approach to sourcing ingredients, as well as the way she takes inspiration from the restaurant design and bar program. Read here

On PUNCH: My Feature On The Scarcity Of Wild Agave Mezcal

A taste of the rare agave Tepeztate, in San Balthazar, Oaxaca
A taste of the rare agave Tepeztate, in San Balthazar, Oaxaca

A month and a half ago, I traveled to Oaxaca with Mezcal El Silencio, and stayed to do some independent journalism. Following that trip, I delved into research on the subject of wild agave mezcal, and its endangerment–as well as the measures industry insiders are taking toward sustainability. Check out my feature on PUNCH here. (And that’s Don Goyo, mezcalero for El Jolgorio, holding a sample of the Tepeztate I describe in the story, pictured here, by the way.)

The Intrigue of Mezcal

El Silencio Palenque_RSignerA few weeks ago, I had the incredible experience of traveling to Oaxaca with El Silencio, one of the newer mezcal brands on the scene. We visited their palenque in San Baltazar, drank a lot of Espadín, and held a fairly raucous cocktail competition with bartenders from all over. Wine press trips, by the way, pale in comparison to spirits trips. Bartenders are ten times crazier.

Mezcal is a fascinating, beguiling spirit, which I’ve written about previously for Esquire and Food Republic. Following the trip with El Silencio, I stayed for a few days on my own, and met with other mezcal producers, and wrote a story for Food Republic about the spiritual, cultural aspects of mezcal. Read it here.

I have another feature on mezcal coming out in a few weeks. I also had a feature published this week on Brooklyn Magazine’s site, which lists some of the best wine + spirits shops in Brooklyn. I wrote it because people always ask me where to shop, so now I can just send them the link! Check it out here. At the moment, I’m in northern Portugal, learning about the wines of Vinho Verde, which I’ll write about for my Vine Pair column next week. For now, all I’ll say is that there is definitely more to Vinho Verde than spritzy, “cheap + cheerful” wine, but it’s one of those cases where the market provides a barrier to winemaking. To come!


Wine For Netflix, Mezcal, Breaking Wine “Rules”

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 3.57.09 PMIs anyone else tired of those sponsored Twitter ads, for the “Netflix of wine,” showing a woman nursing an oversized glass of red?

Well, ignore the “Netflix of wine,” because I think we need wine for Netflix. Yes, I know–like me, you’ve also begun binge-watching House of Cards Season 4! And possibly you also blazed through the first season of Love?

That’s why I wrote in my latest Vine Pair column about which wines go best with the current line-up of Netflix series. Read it here(My dream is that Chelsea Handler’s PR team will contact me to see if I want to do a story about what wines she loves, or something like that)


This week, I also had new stories on, for which I enlisted one of Brooklyn’s most exciting bartenders, Ivy Mix, to help me select the most interesting bottles of mezcal out there, and on, where I worked with somms around the country to collect tips on breaking the so-called “rules” of wine. It’s important to demystify wine and shake off all the baggage surrounding it–and I even found out that one wine director in L.A. is using a bong to decant wines, in his restaurant!

Read the Vogue piece here, and the Esquire story on mezcal here.

Coming soon: my write-up of NYC’s first natural wine fair, The Big Glou! And if you missed it, I had an article last week on Tempranillo, for Eater, with some really interesting current news from Spain. Read it here.

Bon weekend!


G.L.A.S.S. Is A Game Changer For LGBT Booze Professionals


On a recent night in February at Piranha, a gay nightclub in Las Vegas, the owner approached Cooper Cheatham, who had organized the event to bring together LGBT spirits and cocktail professionals. Piranha and Share, another Vegas gay bar, are something like rivals — usually the two sets of clientele do not mix, preferring to stick to their home bases. But that night, many Share loyalists showed up at Piranha, and the owner commented to Cheatham that it was a really surprising turnout. For Cheatham, it was a success, because his organization, G.L.A.S.S. — the Gay and Lesbian Alliance for Spirited Sipping — is all about creating community by bringing together the mixologists, brand reps and beverage directors who often feel marginalized in a heteronormative, male-dominated industry. More here

What I Learned At The Kings County Distillery

photo 2Last night, I checked out a special tour and tasting at the Kings County Distillery, in Brooklyn’s Navy Yard, as part of an Art Lab series that looks at the intersection of art and science. Micro-distilling is, like making any other fermented beverage in small batches or without too much machinery, an art that requires a refined palate and a sense of adventure. Here’s what I learned about Kings County that made me like them even more than I already did:

1) Kings was the first legal commercial distillery in New York. It was only in 2009 that the micro-distillery laws were passed, leading to the proliferation of whiskey, vodka, and absinthe distilling we’re seeing everywhere. Kings was the avant-garde!

2) Whiskey love is a new thing. In fact, vodka used to be all the rage in the U.S. until recently, when suddenly a renewed interest in mixology seems to have propelled a whiskey frenzy, which actually led to a bourbon shortage, as well as ridiculously inflated prices on certain bourbons.

3) What’s the difference between whiskey and vodka? Both are grain distillates, but whiskey must be 160 proof or lower, whereas vodka has to be 190 proof or higher. Hence, vodka is what you drink at high school hotel parties to get blackout drink; whiskey is for sophisticated sipping. Read more