Pliny’s Tonic

Anvil has consistently been a top bar in Houston.  Shortly after it opened years ago, I selected the Pliny’s Tonic one night. It’s been my favorite cocktail ever since.  In fact, I’ve asked for this cocktail at other bars around town, and the bartender knew what it was and made it for me!  That’s right.  It’s famous.  I found a couple of recipes online and thought I’d make and tweak.  However, I discovered no tweaking was necessary!  It tasted exactly like my beloved Pliny’s Tonic!  I used Kindred Cocktail’s and Texas Highway’s recipes (they were identical).  I also found this recipe from Stay at Home Cocktails, which looks like it’s worth a shot.

One Pliny

Overhead Pliny

Pliny's Side

I made the Habanero Simple Syrup over the weekend.  It was super easy.  Don’t be afraid of customized simple syrups.  They really do make the cocktail.  I was a little worried about finding the Bittermen’s Hellfire Habanero Shrub, but Spec’s came through again.  Spec’s also had some cute cocktail glasses (think old school champagne cocktail glass with the wide top) that looked perfect for this.  I think they were about $5 each.  I wish I had bought a couple.

Hendricks group

Hendrick’s Gin is the gin I see most often listed in gin cocktails, and this recipe was no different.  Quality, people.  The recipe was a little unclear on the amount of lime to use (muddle one quarter of lime or two?), so I went with two.  I tried it with only 3 drops of the Hellfire Shrub first, but it definitely needs 4 drops if you go with two quarters of lime.  Also, I made two batches of the cocktail.  It makes only a tiny bit!  A strip of cucumber rind on a cocktail toothpick would have been a cute garnish.  As a final note, don’t skimp on the mint!

Definitely check out Anvil if you’re ever in Houston!

Cocktails, Weekend Update

Weekend Update: Coltivare and Salentein Malbec

Thursday morning was rainy, but it cleared up enough that night for a bike ride around Woodland Heights after happy hour at Karbach Brewery with my new coworkers.  Woodland Heights is such a dream land.  I’ve love to own a home there to raise a family one day!  I’m always a sucker for a tree canopy.

Woodland Heights

Friday was beautiful in Houston.  Unfortunately, I was so tired after such a busy week that I had only enough energy to have a glass of wine before hitting the hay early.


I picked up a bottle of this 2015 Salentein Malbec.  I had this wine awhile back on a date and liked it so much I snapped a photo of the label.  Since I’m on a Malbec kick, I was checking out the selection and was happy to see this wine stocked!  It was as good as I remember.

Salentein Malbec

In tasting, I noticed cherry and spice.  I’m not sure if I prefer this wine or the Trivento Malbec I tried last week, but I think I’m leaning toward the Trivento; it seemed a bit less acidic, and I like fruitier wines. Both are very good!

Saturday night I went to Coltivare, one of my (now) favorite restaurants, for a second date.  It was very busy, so we hung out in the garden area for cocktails while we waited for a table.  I had the Cash Only which was good but mainly ice.  Think adult snow cone.  Once we were seated I had an excellent red wine.  Unfortunately, I didn’t take note of what it was! For the meal, we tried the Focaccia with Olive Oil, Texas Corn on the Cob, Wood Grilled Chicken with Grapes, Ricotta Gnocchi and famous Black Pepper Spaghetti.  Everything was incredible.  The corn had a sauce that was incredible and the Wood Grilled Chicken had a distinct flavor that I haven’t been able to put out of my mind.  The Black Pepper Spaghetti lived up to the hype and was perfect in its simplicity.  I think this was the best meal I’ve had at Coltivare, and I can’t wait to go back again!

I’m planning on getting back on track with posting this week.  I made an incredible cheesecake today for Tuesday’s post, and I whipped up some Habanero Simple Syrup for Thursday’s cocktail post.



Frosé Throwdown

As I’m sure you know, frosé is the cocktail for Summer 2017.  I finally jumped on the frosé train a couple of weeks ago at brunch.  With a quick follow-up search on Pinterest, I discovered a few frosé recipes worth trying.  I recruited my mom for a mini Frosé Throwdown.  Let the ruuuuuuummmmbbbllleee begin!

Note:  Rosé doesn’t completely freeze without an additive.  It’s more like a slush, so it melts really fast.  Thus, the cocktails were already melting by the time I could snap a photo.  Definitely don’t take the frozen rosé out of the freezer until immediately before blending with the other ingredients.  Pretty garnishes include mint, pink or red rose petals and frozen berries.  An extra squeeze of lemon here and there really brings out the flavor!

One.  This Island Life’s Frosé

Frose One

This recipe called for the healthiest ingredients of the bunch (read: agave syrup in lieu of simple sugar).  This recipe had more work on the front end but froze the best thanks to the coconut water.  We liked this one on first sip but added a touch more lemon which perfected the flavor.  Mom noted “Very good! A very good squeeze of lemon brings out all the flavors to their utmost and best use!  Delicious!  Great for a Shower, Afternoon Tea or lazy afternoon.”  She is clearly a fan!  This wasn’t our favorite of the bunch, but it was a close second.  Note:  I forgot to take a photo until after the tasting started.  I was excited! Oops!

Two. How Sweet Eats’s Dry Rosé Sorbet

Frose Two

This recipe called for rosé champagne, but since I didn’t have any on hand, we used good old regular rosé.  I also muddled a bit of mint in the bottom of the flutes.  On first sip, it needed sweetening.  We added more simple syrup and more lemon.  My mom noted “It still is not my favorite.”  I wonder if it would be much improved with rosé champagne.

Three.  Ramshackle Glam’s Frosé

Frose Three

This was good but not great.  I think if I’d let the raspberries soak in the simple syrup longer, it would have been much better.  I garnished with a few raspberries in the glass, but mint would have been nice too.

Four.  If You Give a Blonde a Kitchen’s Frosé

Frose Four

I looooooved this one, which makes sense since most frosé cocktails served in restaurants seems to be mixed with strawberries.  This was both Mom’s and my favorite of the bunch.  We have a winner!  Frosé all day!


My Favorite Wines

Wine on the Balcony

I promise Thursday isn’t going to become a day devoted to wine reviews.  I have two fun cocktail posts (one will be a mixology and the other will be a throwdown – any guesses?) in the works — I just need to do a little more research (okay, taste testing).  I’ve been a little preoccupied because today I started a new job!  It was a great first day and very exciting!  That said, these cocktails posts I have in the works will be worth the wait.

Aside from volunteering in the HLSR Champion Wine Garden during rodeo season, I drink a lot of wine.  I think this makes me an expert.  Maybe you don’t, but um humor me and just go with it.


  • Rombauer  – Buttery.  Very buttery.  A taste all its own, and I love it.  I tried this wine for the first time in the HLSR Wine Garden last season with my mom, and we both immediately fell in love.  She surprised me with a bottle for us to share after I took her to brunch on Mother’s Day.  It was so sweet!
  • Kendall Jackson Vintner’s Reserve  – Similar to Rombauer but lighter on the butter.

Pinot Gris:  King Estate – Wonderful for hot days.  I purchased this bottle many times last summer.  An easy, satisfying pick.

Rosé :  Whispering Angel – As I’ve mentioned before, this is my favorite.  From the color to the aroma to the taste, it can’t be beat.  Rosé all day, indeed.

Pinot Noir:

  • Meiomi –  If you go to a house party, odd’s are good someone will bring a bottle of this.  I’ve done this myself!  A great standard Pinot Noir.  Incredible website, by the way.
  • Francis Ford Coppola Director’s Cut –  Fruity and delightful.

Malbec:  Alamos Malbec – Very inexpensive.  Great quality for the price.

Zinfandel:  The Prisoner – A wine with a cult following.  It took me ages to try this one because it sold out the evening of a day’s morning delivery!  It was worth the wait.  I’ve given this as a Christmas gift.  I’m really wishing someone would give this to me as a gift right about now!

Cabernet Sauvignon:

  • Caymus – Pricey, but a treat.  A man once picked up a bottle of this for me, without knowing how much I love it.  Needless to say, I was impressed!
  • B.R. Cohn –  I’ve purchased a bottle of this more times that I can count.  A good, inexpensive standard.
  • Francis Coppola Claret –  Twice recently (wine-and-a-chat at my friend’s house and Leadership Academy End-of-Year Happy Hour last weekend) this bottle has been offered at events.  I liked it so much after the first run-in, I picked up a bottle to add to my stash.

Bubbly:  Veuve Clicquot – Do I even need to write anything here?  Perfect for celebrations.  I buy a bottle every New Year’s Eve to share with my closest friends at whatever NYE party I end up at.  Like buttah.

I also recommend checking out Sancerre.  I think this varietal is often lost in the shuffle, but I greatly enjoyed trying different bottles last summer.  Flora Springs’s Trilogy is a wonderful red blend I picked up at The Estate in Napa last summer as a birthday gift to myself.  I shared it with a friend to complement a homemade spaghetti and meatballs dinner, and it was perfect!

I’d love to hear what some of your favorites are!


Thirsty Thursday:  Wine Review – AIX Rosé

Wine is one of my passions.  In fact, my ultimate dream is to own a winery one day.  Last year, I went to St. Helena, CA for my birthday and was blown away by all the wineries we visited.  For now, I do plenty of “research” and spent the past two HLSR seasons volunteering in the Champion Wine Garden as a Wine Garden Committeeman.  I learned a ton about wine and am now a pro with a wine key (new party trick!).

Last weekend, I stopped into Spec’s Warehouse downtown (truly a wonderland and possibly the greatest place on Earth) to pick up a bottle of my favorite Rosé.  Though a Whispering Angel loyalist, I couldn’t help but look around and research some bottles on the Vivino app.  I noticed AIX Rosé was on sale for $15.47, so I decided to give it a shot. The weather was nice that evening, so I decided to sit out on my balcony to enjoy a glass paired with some veggies and hummus.

AIX Rose 2

AIX Rose 4

AIX Rose Cork

AIX Rosé is a Provence Rosé (my favorite).  The wine  is a pinkish-orange color with a citrus smell.  I was not all that in love with the color (I prefer a light pink hue with much less orange), but it could be much worse.  The website notes AIX Rosé has a “crisp acidity,” and this is the first thing I noticed.  It was a bit too acidic for my taste.  Next, I tasted tart, citrus notes and a bit of melon.  Reviews I read noted strawberry notes, but I never discovered them.

All in all, this was a decent Rosé and good value.  But I still prefer the Whispering Angel!

If you have any Rosé suggestions, I would love to hear about them!

Side note:  My parents visited Mackinac Island, MI the past few days.  The tulips are GORGEOUS this time of year!

Mackinac Tulips