Wine Travel Adventure

Bay Area & California travel blog

Category: Cocktails & Spirits (page 1 of 2)

Sex sells a new vodka

Sex sells, and it’s helping to sell Bellion Vodka, a new specialty vodka being rolled out across California and other markets around the country this month.

To tell people about their product, the New York-based firm behind the vodka has introduced two new video commercials featuring gorgeous, sexy women, such as above. Got my attention, I’m not afraid to say. Continue reading

How Keith Richards boosted the Tequila Sunrise, and other good cocktail stories

When Keith Richards was in his hard-partying prime in the 1970s, he and his fellow band mates on the Rolling Stones showed up one night at the Trident, a watering hole in Sausalito on the edge of San Francisco Bay, looking for some alcoholic refreshments. Richards ordered a margarita and the bartender, a creative mixmaster named Bobby Lozoff, served him something different instead: a then mostly unknown drink of tequila, orange juice and grenadine.

Richards loved the Tequila Sunrise, as it was called, and it rapidly became his go-to party drink. His fame, and the fame of the Stones, helped spread the fame of their favorite cocktail, and the Tequila Sunrise became not just a mere drink but a cultural touchstone for that era of rock ‘n roll. The Eagles’ hit song “Just Another Tequila Sunrise” added to the popularity of Lozoff’s invention.

This story—and the accompanying recipe—is only one of the many nice treats in Beach Cocktails: Favorite Surfside Sips and Bar Snacks (Oxmoor House, $25), a new book by the editors of Coastal Living Magazine that contains the recipes for 125 cocktails. Generously illustrated with photographs of tropical sand and surf scenes, the theme here is that of the beach—light, refreshing cocktails that you might enjoy in your leisure on the beach, or on your backyard patio, in those lazy hazy days of summer.

Keith Richards.

The cocktail that Lozoff did not serve Richards that day, the margarita, is of course here. As are The Drunken Sailor, Caribbean Rum Swizzle, Sex on the Beach, Key Lime Gimlet, the Bahama Hurricane, Missionary’s Downfall, Singapore Sling, and other delightfully named and often quite delicious concoctions that Richards in his prime probably also imbibed.
A good cocktail, like a good book or movie, has a good story attached to it. Beach Cocktails has many such stories, such as: Continue reading

Francis Ford Coppola’s favorite drink has a rummy history

By Kevin Nelson

Some time ago I was having a glass of pinot and a pizza at the bar of Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville, and I asked the bartender what Coppola himself liked to drink. Coppola, the well-known filmmaker, owns the place.

The great man himself.

The bartender grabbed a menu and pointed to the top where a box with a picture answered my question. His “favorite tropical drink,” it said, is “Navy Grog” and its ingredients are “fresh lime juice, grapefruit, soda, honey, Puerto Rican rum, dark Jamaican rum, Demerara rum, Angostura bitters, crushed ice cone.” No details on the proportions.

Continue reading

Chic and tasty dining at Solbar in Calistoga


Even before you enter the lovely dining room of Solbar, the surrounding Solage Resort has begun to work its magic. Comfortable outdoor seating and contemporary fountains—some with flames rising from the water—set the casual, upscale tone.

Michelin-starred Solbar is a hotel restaurant, but looks like a chic bistro, and the superb service and food live up to expectations.

Solbar 1

We started lunch with a beet salad ($15). The beautifully prepared beets were prepared four different ways, including in chip form, and served on watercress. An unusual green goddess dressing had a strong cinnamon note.

Solbar 2

Spicy shrimp lettuce wraps ($17) are highly recommended. Tamarind-sauced rice noodles and shredded carrots nestle on avocado slices, and a traditional nam pla sauce spikes up the simply prepared shrimp. Continue reading

Adventures in California and Canada—and another on the way

By Kevin Nelson

My editors at reminded me the other day that I had been writing for the site for two years, and during that time I’ve met some wonderful people and gone on some extraordinary adventures. Here are a few of those adventures, all recommended:

A bagpipes player at the start of the Rockies trip.

A bagpipes player at the start of the Rockies trip.

Rocky Mountaineer train trip across the Canadian Rockies. Starting in the wonderful British Columbia city of Vancouver and ending in the spectacular mountain village of Banff, this was a two-day ride through ridiculously beautiful scenery with tasty food and wine included. Those Canadians are nice people, too. Continue reading

From Napa to New York, art, laughter and serious drinking

By Kevin Nelson

This is a California-based wine and travel blog, but sometimes I look longingly to the East and think, “Now that would be fun.” And so it is with the upcoming (January 21) “Drunk 2016: An Evening of Wine, Jewish Text Study, Art, Music, Theater and Imbibing,” to be held at the Theater at the 14th Street Y in Manhattan. Organizers of the event say it is devoted to “art, humor and some serious drinking.” If that strikes you as a good time too, see the website for the Laboratory for Jewish Culture in New York. Continue reading

Where to quench your thirst and eat really big burgers in Banff



One of the first things I do before I travel is to find out where to get the best drinks once I am there. My wife and I were going to be stopping in Banff, Alberta on our trip through Canada so the search was on. A short search found a list of many places to go but we were only going to be in Banff for one night and so I had to choose wisely.Grapes Wine Bar

Fast forward to our arrival in Banff, we checked into our hotel and set out to explore what we could. The Fairmont Banff Springs is a beautiful hotel but the best part of it (in my opinion) is The Grapes Wine Bar (pictured). Found by chance, we were exploring the hotel before setting out to the Banff Park Museum and stumbled across this gem on the second mezzanine level. We took in the view from our window table while we sampled their wonderful wines, cheeses, and great charcuterie. Fortunately, we arrived during a lull in the day so our food and drinks came out in a flash and we were able to make it to the museum before it closed.

“Our Canadian neighbors know that beer is part of a normal lifestyle. After water, coffee and milk, beer is Canada’s favorite beverage. Smart folks, aye?” This is a quote from GreatClubs. Truer words never spoken. After the wine bar and museum, we set out to the place my wife and I both agreed on (I know, we agreed on something! No seriously, we did): the Banff Ave Brewing Company.

Continue reading

Carpe Diem Returns, Bigger and Better

Carpe DiemBy Jennifer Kaiser

Congratulations to the team at Carpe Diem for reopening their beautiful wine bar in downtown Napa. The building, located on the corner of 2nd and Brown Street, was badly damaged in the August 2014 earthquake. Exterior scaffolding reminds visitors that the work to rebuild Napa continues. While the wine bar was closed for repairs, Carpe Diem opened a pop-up in the nearby Oxbow Market. That spot has now closed. Continue reading

What to do in Vancouver when you’re not watching the World Cup soccer matches


The Tap & Barrel Cafe in the Vancouver Convention Centre.

The Tap & Barrel Cafe in the Vancouver Convention Centre.

After serving as host city for the 2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver is putting out the welcome mat this month for another grand international sporting event, the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Soccer matches are being held in Vancouver and other Canadian cities throughout June, with the championship final on July 5 at BC Place Stadium in the city. (The U.S. plays Nigeria there on June 16.)

Thirty-two nations are competing in the global tourney, with tens of thousands of visitors—athletes, fans, tourists, media, dignitaries—pouring into the city. Fortunately Vancouver is a cosmopolitan city easily able to handle all the attention. Here are a few suggestions on what to see and do there when you’re not watching the games: Continue reading

Unmistakable Cleveland, land of LeBron

By Dave Nelson

Do you consider Paris passé? Manhattan mediocre? Tokyo tiresome? It may be time to check out the newest global hotspot: Cleveland. You read that correctly. Cleveland. Ohio. The former “Mistake by the Lake.” The city that Detroit used to mock. That Cleveland. I have seen it with my own eyes.

Cleveland's colorful and lively Warehouse District.

Cleveland’s colorful and lively Warehouse District.

I hadn’t been in Cleveland for at least a decade. My wife was scheduled to attend a marketing conference there so I decided to tag along. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do. I have friends there I hadn’t seen for a while. Or I could take in a ballgame at Progressive Field. If I were completely bored, I could just sit in some downtown dive, downing shots and commiserating with the locals about the good ol’ days.

I am happy to report I was enormously mistaken about Cleveland. The town has rebounded quite nicely. (Yes, that is a basketball pun because the NBA Finals between the Cavs and Golden State begin today.) Nowadays, the only “Mistake by the Lake” is the out-of-date impression most people have of the city. Continue reading

Jack Kerouac Alley and its many surrounding pleasures

Jack Kerouac Alley is a charming, nostalgic tribute to the beatnik era of San Francisco and the handsome, charismatic free spirit who wrote one of the best books of that era, On The Road.Jack Kerouac Alley

The alley is between Columbus and Stockton, just off Broadway in North Beach, the city’s Italian district. It’s worth a visit, beginning with City Lights Bookstore, which borders the alley on the north side. City Lights is itself a beatnik era landmark, still vibrant today, which was founded by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, a free spirit himself who was a friend of Kerouac’s and a fine poet.

The bookstore holds readings and publishes books, something it has been doing since 1955, when it published Ferlinghetti’s poetry collection, Pictures of the Gone World. A special 60th anniversary edition of Pictures will come out in the fall. (Another Ferlinghetti collection worth exploring: the wondrous Coney Island of the Mind.) Be sure to go downstairs in the shop where the likes of Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, William Burroughs and other poets hung out, and where their books are displayed for sale. Continue reading

The Paris hotel where they shot ‘Bourne Identity,’ other spy flicks

By David Nelson

Hotel ReginaOne of the most appealing contradictions in Paris is Le Bar Anglais (The English Bar), located in the very French Hotel Régina. You may not have stayed in the Hotel Régina, but you are certainly familiar with it. If you are a movie fan, that is. In The Bourne Identity, Secret Agent Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) dispatches his lover/ally, Marie (Franka Potente), to retrieve crucial information contained on a hotel invoice. The hotel she enters? Hotel Régina.

In La Femme Nikita, Secret Agent Nikita (Anne Parillaud) receives orders to report for an assignment as a room service maid who must deliver a spiked breakfast tray to an important hotel guest. The hotel? Hotel Régina. Continue reading

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