Monday, August 31, 2009

The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks: A must have for all connoisseurs of spirits


As we have the first few entries for our recipe contest come in, I would like to suggest a “must have” for all those who love to cook with wine and spirits.

It’s a book. “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks” by David A. Embury. It’s got nothing to do with our recipe contest but is a must have for any cook and a good read for those who might not like to cook as well.

Also, chances are it’s out-of-print unless you are well connected with authentic bartenders who will always have a copy. The next step is to persuade them to sell it to you. Good luck with that! Or you can keep tuned in to the Spirits Unlimited Middletown blog where we bring you the latest news on things of interest to you and to us.

The book published in 1948, is a collection of cocktails from an attorney by trade. Interestingly, Embury was always at the “shaking-things-up” end of cocktail making while he entertained his guests. But it came upon him to shake things up with his pen and humor as he embarked on this project to categorize and catalog the cocktails of his time. Notably, according to Wikipedia, he was born on November 3, 1886 in Pine Woods, New York and died July 6, 1960 in New Rochelle, New York.

The book is noteworthy for its witty, highly opinionated and conversational tone, as well as its categorization of cocktails into two main types: aromatic and sour; its categorization of ingredients into three categories: the base, modifying agents, and special flavorings and coloring agents; and its 1:2:8 ratio (1 part sweet, 2 parts sour, 8 parts base) for sour type cocktails, according to Wikipedia.

However, you manage to read or buy a copy of this book for your possession or pleasure, here are some interesting facts.

According to Embury, a cocktail must have a visual appeal. One that is not attractive suffers from the “failure to launch” itself syndrome. The presentation, the color and the first sip are supposed to ignite passion in the consumer of the drink.

The next sip should tingle your imagination. The curiosity and the hint of something that you “can’t quite put your finger on” are all aspects of the cocktail’s very nature and reason for its existence, Embury said. It’s supposed to tease and excite without giving itself away.

A classic cocktail is one that increases your curiosity about its contents rather than indulge you in too much of any one taste, whether it’s sweet or fruity, according to Embury. In fact, he said a quality cocktail is never too sweet and never too strong on the alcohol end of things. Last and most important, good-quality, high-proof liquors make for good cocktails. And, don’t forget the ice please.

Robert Hess, author of The Essential Bartender’s Guide, is a sort-of modern day Embury himself as far as love for cocktails goes. Hess has been an employee of Microsoft since 1988, according to Wikipedia, and a co-founder of the Museum of the American Cocktail. Further, Hess, along with several other well-known cocktail personalities, founded The Chanticleer Society, a "Worldwide Organization of Cocktail Enthusiasts," Wikipedia states.

Hess qualifies Embury as someone who “with a deep passion for, as well as an opinion about, what it took to make a proper cocktail.”

Hess’s review which appears online on The Spirit World further states: Books which attempt to cram within their pages as many different cocktail recipes as possible are almost a dime a dozen, and can often be seen behind many bars. As a simple reference, I suppose they have their place, but Mr. Embury’s book isn’t a simple reference book. While it does contain a fair number of cocktail recipes, this is a book that is intended to be read. Its recipes, and more importantly the information and opinions around those recipes, are intended to be educational, and that is what sets this book apart from almost any other.”

Interestingly, Hess said if you were looking to buy the book some 10 years ago, you could get one around $40. Now, it’s gone up by a few hundred dollars.

Hess also chronicles how Mud Puddle Books, New York, came out with a reprint of this 1948 book: “A reprint was clearly in need, the problem was that not only was the book new enough as to still be covered under copyright, but nobody seemed to know who actually held the copyright to the book now that Mr. Embury himself had passed away. Enter Gregory Bohem, owner of “Mud Puddle” a New York publisher, as well as an avid collector of old cocktail books. He decided that he really, really, needed to come out with reprint of this book. Diligently he followed various leads, many of them dead-ends, until he finally located Mr. Embury’s only surviving relative, his daughter Ruth Embury. Mud Puddle was quickly able to arrange to do a reprint, and an excellently executed one at that.

Hess says the reprint is now available on, or can be ordered from Mud Puddles:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Chef Tips: What to cook with and what to drink?


Sometimes cooking with wines look so easy when you watch chefs do it. But try it on your own, the result is less than appetizing.

Chef James Conroy wanted to share his tips for cooking with wine with Spirits Unlimited Middletown customers today.

His advice: Don't use a cheap wine. Use a "middle of the road wine," something that you can drink with the food you are preparing.

As you listen to him, don't forget to send in your recipes or questions to us at

Happy cooking!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Spirits Unlimited Middetown announces first ever recipe contest!


What will you do to win a new Nintendo WII system? Or to get a beach bicycle for free?

Just enter a recipe contest and email your recipe to

Yes, its that easy!

Spirits Unlimited Middletown is proud to announce that James Conroy, the Executive Chef at Food Circus Supermarkets, has accepted the invitation to judge entries for this contest.

Not only that, Chef Conroy will prepare the winning recipes himself. He has also give out additional culinary tools as prizes for recipes that really stood out.

The contest runs from now until the end of September and winners will be announced on the first week of October. The rules are simple.

To enter you simply have to email a recipe ( that uses any wine or liquor. It could be a recipe for a cake or coffee, a dessert or a drink, an entrée or an appetizer. The possibilities are limitless.

The only conditions are: a) that it has to be your invention or alteration; and b) it has to have some use of a wine, liquor or fine spirits.

For example, a cake that you simplified, or a summer recipe that you made up or altered from an existing one. The objective is to share your creativity with others. You could also re-invent a recipe that was in your family for generations and which you may or may not have modified.

If you have any questions about the recipe contest email us at Further information could be found at the store on Highway 35 North in Middletown.

Chef Conroy will be looking at each entry himself throughout the month. In addition, he will be appearing frequently on this blog to share his tips, techniques and favorite recipes.

Further, to inspire Spirits Unlimited Middletown customers, he will be happy to answer any questions regarding using wine and alcohol in recipes if you email him at

Hurry! Don't miss the chance to cook with an outstanding chef and hear his professional advice on dining and entertaining.

Join the contest for free. Email your recipe to today.

Be the winner this fall!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Spirits Middletown considers bringing Sonoma County winemakers to town


Liquor Operations Manager for Spirits Middletown Stuart Keats believes in constant innovation.

His latest aspiration is to bring Ferrari-Carano experts to town to introduce their award-winning wines to Middletown customers.

“To talk about wines is talk about your passion for creating it,” Keats said. “I want our customers to hear it from the real people. The soil, the climate, the topography — all goes into crafting the bottle you so confidently open at the table for family or friends. I am sure people will love to know the background story and understand their wines.”

The vision that inspired Don and Rhonda Carano is one of quality that is consistent with every vintage. Shunning profits and money, the couple wanted to create something that is memorable and guarantees satisfaction.

On the ground, Ferrari-Carano experts match soil to irrigation styles so that the area’s potential is reflected in the grapes cultivated. This in turn produces a wine the best reflects the organic environment of that region.

Director of Vineyard Operations Steve Domenichelli uses sustainable farming techniques such as recycling organic matter for use as mulch in the vineyards; planting cover crops and other plant species to avoid soil erosion, adding desirable nutrients back to the soil and to attract desirable insects; and integrating animals to naturally enhance biodiversity and nutrient recycling, according to the company Web site.

"We have over 1.1 million vines to tend to on roughly 1,400 acres of vineyards, and each vine is touched by human hands 6 to 8 times a season to ensure the highest quality fruit for our wines," Domenichelli said. "In addition, we believe that giving back to the environment balances out the ecosystem and enhances the quality of our fruit.”

Sarah Quider, white wine winemaker for Ferrari-Carano, employs gentle winemaking techniques, focusing on single vineyard sites for the Russian River Chardonnays, while blending wine for style, quality and multidimensional complexity that characterizes Ferrari-Carano's other white wines.

"My goal is to make complex, intense and seamless wines that are balanced in both richness and delicacy," Quider said. "We have such tremendous diversity in our vineyards because we are located in various appellations, each with unique micro-climates, soils and clones. It's my desire to express that diversity in our wines."

Winemaker Aaron Piotter spearheads Ferrari-Carano's red wine program housed in Alexander Valley.

"The vines tell us how to take care of the wines, and the wines tell us how to get the best from our vines," he said. "At Ferrari-Carano, we share a philosophy of using the experiences our vines and wines have taught us to ensure that each year we progress as winemakers and winegrowers. As dedicated, passionate and responsible stewards of mountain and valley floor vineyards, we believe our wines will reflect this commitment."

For more information visit:

The Cupcake philosophy: Live Deliciously


The name suggests delicacy. The brand category is boutique wines. The target market is the upwardly mobile. The touch is soft and feminine.

Overall, a wine crafted with much thought and aims to please.

The wines were released into the market in late October last year, according to an Underdog Wine Merchants press release. These gourmet, award-winning wines come from the central California Coast where the weather tempers the balance of acid and sugars in the fruit. The result is a lower concentration of tannins that gives the grapes a more mellow composition.

Cupcake (750 ml) wines on sale at Spirits Middletown at $7.99 until August 25 include chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and sauvignon blanc.

While the grapes for the chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and merlot are native to the central California Coast, those for the Sauvignon Blanc comes from the Marlborough valley of New Zealand, where the temperate climate favors a longer growing period, according to the vineyard.

After picking, the grapes are first placed in stainless steel tanks for cool fermentation and later aged in premium American-oak barrels. The intention is to present a bit of both — the fruitiness of the carefully cultivated grapes as well as the creamy touch as a result of the oak.

Adam Richardson, winemaker for Cupcake Vineyards and international winemaker for Underdog Wine Merchants, said, “When we make Cupcake, we put fruit, softness and richness at the top of our list. Everything, from the barrels we select to the way we ferment the wine, is done with these characteristics in mind. The end result is a rich and complex wine with layers of flavors and a long, smooth finish with a name that says it all.”
Tasting Notes from Cupcake Vineyards:
Cupcake Chardonnay was crafted to emphasize the Central Coast’s creamy and structured Chardonnay character. It starts off with a touch of apple, a hint of tropical fruits and is complimented by a balance of vanilla and spice. We used malolactic fermentation with aging in small barrels to provide a rich mid palate that develops into a long, smooth, satisfying finish. This wine pairs well with crab cakes, seared Ahi tuna on waffle crackers or fresh-baked French bread and cheese.

Rich and enticing, the Cupcake Cabernet Sauvignon is a balance between generous profiles of fruit and oak. This full-bodied yet smooth Cabernet Sauvignon displays soft tannins, with primary fruit flavors of blackberry, dark cherry and plums. The dark fruits melt with the flavors of mocha and toasty oak before ending with a long and silky finish. This wine pairs well with baked brie drizzled with honey or petite filet mignon with a cabernet reduction sauce.
Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc comes from the cool Marlborough valley of New Zealand. Here the grapes mature slowly, giving them complexity and a vibrant zing, reminiscent of your grandma’s lemon chiffon cupcake. The flavors are integrated, delighting the senses with Meyer lemons, Key limes and a finish that awakens the appetite. This wine pairs well with oysters on a half shell or with a rich and succulent Lobster Risotto.

Cupcake Merlot is a full-bodied yet smooth merlot displaying supple tannins. This is a softer, silkier Merlot with a good balance of oak and fruit. It starts with flavors of red cherries that evolve into decadent flavors of cocoa and espresso mingles into a plush, silky mocha finish. This wine pairs well with pork tenderloin with a port-fig reduction sauce or a decadent chocolate molten cupcake.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Spirits Unlimited Middletown goes green


It’s for the environment as much as for savings coming your way during tough times that Spirits Unlimited Middletown is happy to announce its six-pack black reusable bags.

Priced below $2, the six-pack black reusable bags allows you to get a 5% discount on six 750ml bottles of wine of your choice every time you use it.

While the store is expecting its next shipment of these bags any day now, don’t forget to check in with anyone at the store about how this new item from your local super discount store brings more savings your way.

“This is part of our tier discount program,” Circus Liquor Operations Manager Stuart Keats said. “We already have a 10% discount program on a case of wine, we wanted to take it to the next level by offering a 5% program with this ‘green’ initiative of ours.”

While many Spirits customers prefer plastic, Keats said he wanted to give people the choice to “go green” if they wanted and waste less with plastic.

“We are a company that always looks forward by using ingenuity to promote good habits,” Keats said. “A leader always looks forward, and at Spirits Unlimited Middletown that’s what we do.”

In keeping with this motto, the store has also brought in a whole new exciting range of gift bags to fit every occasion.

“We want to serve our customers best,” Store Manager Ray Kimble said. “We always have free gift bags but for those looking for an extra special touch to their gifts, we have now more choices available.”

Wine Specialist Rick Allocca had specially ordered the bags because he felt great wines need great bags.

“Our wine collection is the best in the area and we continually keep improving our wine selections,” Rick said. “As such it is only natural to have the best packaging available for our top of the line products.”

For more information or questions, please write to us at

Monday, August 10, 2009

Last chance to catch The Show at $9.99


It was branded as an act of robbery, in the good sense of course, when Charles Bieler, Joel Gott, and Roger Scommegna started producing great quality wines at prices that robbed others of their profit margins.

Thus “The Show” was born.

This California cabernet sauvignon is sourced from grapes in the state’s central and north coast.

It is described as rich, refreshing, juicy, with a deep color and intensity. It has good aromatics according to most reviewers and carries hints of blackberry, vanilla from the oak, accompanied by a bit of cherry. Notably, this wine is aged in both French and American oak.

According to the three thieves, The Show is “anchored by full-bodied Cabernet, it also features Merlot for a touch of softness. Cabernet Franc imparts a bit of earthiness and flavor-enhancing acidity, while Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot give it a deep ruby color and a hint of violets on the nose.”

And of course, it delivers great value.

The wine made its way into the market in 2007 and is rated among the top 20 cabernets in its price point, and with the economy going slow, has gained in popularity in the last year.

The thieves claim that they partnered with an American icon, Nashville’s Hatch Show Print, for this wine. According to them, Hatch shares this creative streak. Begun in the cradle of country music in 1879, the company’s colorful designs have been a staple of the American entertainment landscape for more than 125 years. Hatch posters have heralded the appearances of Johnny Cash, Louis Armstrong, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline and countless other luminaries.

On the bandit Web site Bieler is reported as saying: “We loved all three labels Hatch created, so we decided to use them all, even though the wine inside is the same. After all, there are three of us, so we figured, ‘Why not?’”

So, at $9.99 for just a day more, don’t wait too long to catch the last Show at Spirits Unlimited, Middletown.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Barefoot wines: Light, refreshing and “on sale”


Since Barefoot 1.5 liter bottles have been offered at a reduced price point, the bottles have been flying off our shelves at Spirits Unlimited Middletown.

Now, at $9.99 for all 1.5 liter varieties of Barefoot, the opportunity to stock up on this great deal is slipping fast. According to Store Manager Raymond Kimble, it’s really a popular wine and he has been ordering more of it as consumer demands have escalated during the period of sale between July 29th and August 11.

The natural question that comes to mind is why is this brand so popular? I think it is because the Barefoot winemakers have successfully found the chemistry for “easy to understand appreciate” wines.

At it’s regular price, which is a little higher than the sale price until August 11 at Spirits Unlimited Middletown, the wine still is one of the “most sold” wines in the store. People who buy it claim they love to drink it.

Translation: It is light, tasty and it goes down well.

In all varieties from Sauvignon Blanc to its White Zinfandel, the fruit flavors come through easily. The next thing that people remember after taking a sip is that it is “refreshing.” Also, it wasn’t too difficult to enjoy the wine, i.e., it’s not a complicated wine.

These points are exactly what this California brand has pegged its reputation on: light, fruity, refreshing and easy to enjoy.

Considering that the economy is till giving us headaches, these Barefoot wines and the Barefoot spirit are the need of the hour. If the wines are not enough to put you in a good mood, how about a Beach Rescue Cleanup & Concert?

According to the Barefoot site, there is one happening right down our shore at Asbury Park. Mark your calendars for Saturday, August 29. Meet up at 1300 Ocean Avenue in Asbury Park between 2 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. There are four specific meet up points — south end of Boardwalk near the end of Asbury Avenue, middle of the Boardwalk near end of 5th Avenue, north end of the Boardwalk near the end of 8th Avenue and Deal Lake Drive.

The concert features musical guests Joss Stone, Gavin DeGraw, Cold War Kids & Mason Jennings. A VIP reception for all cleanup attendees is scheduled between 5-6 p.m. at The Stone Pony, 913 Ocean Avenue.

Things to note if you are interested are: a) you must be 21+ to participate in this event; b) volunteers should arrive in light colored, comfortable clothing and protective gear like hats, sunglasses and, depending on the task they plan to tackle, closed toed shoes; c) preferably, bring your own sunscreen and water; and d) do not forget to RSVP to attend.

For more on the event, check out the Barefoot events page online.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Ravenswood’s signature Zen of Zin

For a Winery in Sonoma, California, the Zen of Zin brand (on sale this week for $10.99 at Spirits Unlimited Middletown) is a statement of quality.

With its commitment to producing the best Zinfandel that the winery could offer, this full-flavored varietal wine is easy to enjoy with friends and family.

A lot of the quality behind the wine comes from the personality of the winemaker
Joel Peterson. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay area, Peterson has been a crusader for high standards in wine making.

According to his online biography, Peterson had a working knowledge of European vineyards and vintages, along with a collection of headstrong opinions about what made good wine in his early youth. A graduate of Oregon State University, Peterson was a lab scientist, who made “money through wine writing and consulting, gaining a local reputation as a gifted taster (and tasteless punster).”

As his love for wines grew, Peterson had the opportunity to work with Joseph Swan — one of California's outstanding craftsmen of fine Zinfandel — to learn the art of traditional winemaking as practiced in Bordeaux and Burgundy. In 1976 Peterson founded Ravenswood in partnership with fellow wine lover Reed Foster (a Harvard MBA gone astray) and over the next half-dozen years, their fledgling operation moved from the rear corner of one willing winery to another. When Ravenswood finally turned a profit after a dozen years of operation, they settled on the northern edge of Sonoma, where the winery's tasting room is located, according to the company Web site.

Today, Peterson is known as an articulate spokesman and stylistic trendsetter who helped make Zinfandel the runaway phenomenon that it is today.

About Me

This blog is designed, edited and published by Somdatta Sengupta for Circus Liquors Inc. Content is supervised by Stuart Keats, Manager of Liquor Operations for Circus Liquors Inc. Site header created by Denise Reinle. Graphics support provided by Phyllis Vivoli. Content support provided by Mike DeNiro. Store Manager for Spirits Middletown is Ray Kimble. He can be reached at (732) 957 9700. For questions, comments or more information, write to Spirits Middletown at For placing orders or any form of assistance with your fine wine, beer or other party planning requirements, call the store directly at (732) 957 9700.