Greeni Bellini

So it is New Year's Day and you imbibed maybe just a little too much last night, or maybe just the right amount, but in any case someone mentions mimosa and omelettes and immediately after agreeing, you remember those pesky Resolutions you made.

New Year's Day comes on a Saturday this year so you tell yourself that you'll start on Monday, yea that's it, you'll start on Monday with the 'eating right' and the 'exercising everyday' and right now you could totally go for a carafe of mimosa and a Denver Omelette, extra Cheddar.

Enter the Greeni Belini, stage right.  Think: Starbucks Green Tea Latte meets mimosa.  Packed with iodine and manganese, antioxidants and bioflavonoids, spirulina and and Nova Scotia Dulse (whatever that is) - this isn't your grandmothers mimosa.

The Greeni Bellini, although not-surprisingly unphotogenic, is really quite the tasty treat to tantalize the buds and get you firing back on all eight-cylinders.  Powdered green tea, Macha, has a ton of antioxidants that your cells will thank you for.  

Besides adding a little sweet and a little sourness to some cheap inexpensive Champagne sparkling wine, the matcha and the more wholesome bits in the Superfood give it more depth than a straight Bellini would have.  The macha also lends a mild caffeine boost.

I made this with Korbel, a fantastic grab for $8 at CVS.  Sorry, but please don't mix anything in with the good stuff (Veuve, Dom, PJ, Moet).  I used Odwalla's Superfoods, but you could substitute other wholesome green juice blends like Naked's Green Machine.  

I floated the sparkling wine over the Superfoods using a spoon like one would make a Black & Tan; this gave it very much the Mad Scientist look I was going for.  I also used sencha instead of macha, but 9-out-of-10 Gaijin would never know the difference.

Here's how you do them:


  • 1 bottle of Champagne or sparkling wine
  • 1 bottle of green juice, Superfoods, Green Machine, etc.
  • 1 tablespoon of powdered macha, sencha, usucha, or kiocha - I'm a gaijin, I'll never know


Pour about 1 tablespoon of the Superfoods at the bottom of a Champagne flute or other long narrow glass.  Place a spoon into the glass over the Superfoods, but not touching it.  Pour the sparkling wine gently onto the spoon so that they don't mix.

Using the end of the handle of the spoon scoop a small, pea-sized scoop of macha and top each glass.  Be gentle or they will all erupt with bubbles.  Enjoy while thinking of all those sit-ups you'll be doing... on Monday

I got my Sencha from, they have very high quality Japanese green teas.


Authordavid koch
CategoriesDrinks, Recipes

Soda.  Pop.  Coke.  Cola.  Soda-pop.  Coca-Cola.  Whatever you call it colloquially, carbonated sugar water has been part of the American diet since the mid 1800's.  Originally sold as health-foods, veritable tonics, a panacea; their benefits have been revealed to be nothing more than snake oil.  

I recently perused the soda aisle at a supermarket and was amazed at the variety of soda they stock.  Some of the more unusual ones boasted a new type of Diet soda, made with Splenda, so it's better now.  Some even touted vitamins and minerals!  Rejoice!  Finally they put vitamins in my soda!

There may have been 30 different SKU's of Coke products when you count 2-Liters, 12-packs, and mini-cans and multiply by Coke Classic, Diet Coke, Caffeine-Free Coke, Caffeine-Free Diet Coke, Coke with Splenda, Vanilla Coke , Coke with Lime, and Banana Bread Flavored Diet Coke Plus Ginsing, Vitamin D and Coemzyme Q10.

I was tempted to purchase a box of TaB, I was like an archeologist sumbling into an artifact that I thought was destroyed in a great fire.  I didn't know Coca-Cola still made the stuff.  TaB has an interesting story:  It was introduced to the US market in 1963 and was originally sweetened with cyclamate.  Congress banned cyclamate in 1969 and instead, saccharin was used.  

In 1977, Congress moved to ban sacchrin also, they didn't but all products that contained any had to carry the warning, "Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin, which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals." Remember this?  It was also present on every diner table in a little plastic boat, on the little pink packet of Sweet-N-Low.

In a twist of sweetener fate, saccharin was banned in Canada in 1977 - so now Sweet-N-Low in Canada is made from cyclamate (banned in the US) and Sweet-N-Low in the US is made from saccharin (which is banned in Canada).

I always thought TaB was the first ever diet soda, but it was not.  According to the Wiki, the Kirsch Bottling Company launched a sugar-free Ginger Ale called No-Cal in 1952.  The Royal Crown Cola Company "RC Cola" released Diet Rite in 1958.  No-Cal fizzled out and died but was resurrected in 2005 by the INOV8 Beverage Company in 2005 with the flavors Cherry Lime, Chocolate, Clementine, and Vanilla Cream.

I enjoy a cold soda now and then over ice.  Everything in moderation, I say, even moderation.

Authordavid koch
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I was reading Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking the other night about spices.  While many people know that Saffron's sweet earthy stigmas are the most expensive spice, commanding up to $5,000 USD/pound - I didn't know that Vanilla was the second at $200/pound and Cardamom was the third at $22/pound.

McGee mentions how Nordic countries often use Cardamom in baked goods.  Supposedly the Vikings fell in love with the stuff a very very long time ago.  I thought briefly.  I know it goes in Chai Tea, and Garam Masala... but what else has Cardamom in it? 

Apparently, 80% of the annual Cardamom crop (which is picked by hand - ergo the price) goes to Arab countries mostly for use in Gahwa, Cardamom Coffee.  This is a big part of the culture, which was hitherto unbeknownst to me.  From

The ritual of presenting gahwa begins when the host places a set of four coffee pots, called della. Next to an open fire he pours the coffee beans onto a mahmasa,

Authordavid koch
CategoriesDrinks, Recipes
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Starbucks is making a big hoopla about their new instant coffee called VIA which they rolled out nationwide recently.  They claim it is an instant coffee that tastes like freshly brewed.  They use a proprietary process they are calling a microgrind, and by looking at, making the stuff, and tasting it I'm thinking there's some dehydrated and/or freeze-dried coffee in there too.

Nevertheless, it's VIA VIA VIA everywhere you look inside your local Starbucks right now

Authordavid koch
CategoriesDrinks, Humor
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We recently took a river rafting trip down the Truckee River in Northern California near Lake Tahoe.  Calling this particular section a Class 1 Rapid would be a bit of an exaggeration, and "hair-raising" is not a description that comes up often.  Typical gear includes sun screen, a well stocked cooler, a hat, squirt guns, sunglasses, and a dog. 

Packing a cooler, by the way, is a finely tuned art...

Authordavid koch
CategoriesDrinks, Humor
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Thirsty?  How about juice?  Or some Gatorade?  Water?  No thanks, don't be silly, only Vitamin Water for me.  Or wait!  I know what I'm craving!  Mmm, how about some Age Defying Skin Balance Water?  That's right, Borba!

According to the website:

"BORBA Age Defying Skin Balance Water contains a revolutionary cultivated bio-vitamin complex...

Authordavid koch
CategoriesHumor, Science

Roast Your Own!  I've been reading much of the database of coffee knowledge accumulated at Sweet Maria's Roasting Supplies and came to the conclusion, "I can do that!"  Sometimes these are famous last words, sometimes these are life-changing epiphanies.  I hope that in this case they are the latter.

I picked up two pounds of "green" (unroasted) beans; one pound of the Guatemala Finca La Bella JBM (Jamaican Blue Mountain) Cultivar, and one pound of the India Robusta Jeelan Estate Nirali

The first type was upon their recommendation for a novice roaster, the second...

Authordavid koch
CategoriesDrinks, Recipes
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The German soft drink Bionade is taking the world by storm.  I'm not joking.  Sales started in 1995 and by 2003 they had sold 2 million bottles.  They sold 7 million bottles in 2004, 22 million bottles in 2005, and 70 million bottles in 2006.  2007 sales were well over 200 million bottles. 

They are posting 300%+ growth year over year and are the #3 soft drink in Germany after the "Big C" and the "Big P" - the Bionade team is showing up at all the industry trade shows now, and there is even a Bionade Flickr pool; but the question remains, what is Bionade?

There is a somewhat fluffy description about how it is actually made from their website:

"In order to produce a non-alcoholic refreshment drink in a purely organic way, “Mother Nature” has to be out-smarted through her own mechanisms. Under purely natural conditions, alcohol is usually generated during the process of fermentation when sugar is present.

It was only after a long period of research and development that BIONADE’s inventor, the master brewer Dieter Leipold, was successful in converting sugar into gluconic acid during fermentation according to brewing principles. An analogous process can be found in the production of honey by bees.

Authordavid koch
CategoriesDrinks, History
2 CommentsPost a comment

How about a fancy-pants twist on a summer favorite?  OK, it's not THAT fancy, but it isn't much more difficult than making a normal mojito and it adds a nice little kick.  Yes, you could just add more rum if you want a kick... so why not add more rum and the ginger too?

Obviously only fresh mint and ginger will do.  Unfortunately, ginger comes in pesky little shapes and can be difficult to remove the skin.  If you peel it with a spoon you can eliminate the risk of slicing your finger. 

Garnish these little firecrackers with a lime wedge or a slice of ginger.  Make a slit with a sharp knife and hang it from the rim.

Make a mojito as you normally would:

  •  a small bunch of fresh mint leaves, about 6-7
  • half a lime, cut into 4 wedges
  • 1-2 teaspoons of sugar
  • 3-4 sugar cube-sized chunks of fresh ginger
  • 1.5-2 ounces white or light rum
  • ice
  • top everything off with soda/seltzer water



Put the mint, lime, sugar, and ginger into a tumbler.  Muddle everything together with a... muddler! (seriously, you can't make a proper mojito without one). 

Add the rum, ice, and top the glass with seltzer water.  I like to munch the mint as I go, it freshens your breath; and besides, spitting the little bits back into your glass every time you take a sip is uncouth.






Here is a great video from Epicurious on how to make a "proper" Mojito; a la one that you would find in a nice bar.


Authordavid koch
CategoriesDrinks, Recipes

Coffee fans unite!  Starbucks has blended beans from East Africa to make this 'promotional' bag for the ongoing (RED) Campaign to support The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Africa.

This stuff is REALLY good.  I like the idea behind the (RED) Campaign, but this IS a foodie website, and I promise I wouldn't hype the stuff if it sucked.  If you're looking for another great charity, my friend Nyla started Mama Hope, which founded a health clinic in Kenya.

Back to the coffee... The (RED) blend is quite nutty; almonds, chestnuts, cashews.  It also has a mild acidity that balances well with the earthiness.  They describe it as having floral and citrus notes, which I don't get, but it is a great blend nevertheless. 

Starbucks will donate $1 for every bag you buy.  I think everyone should buy one bag. 

Go.  Now.  Here.  Buy a bag, don't be a chump:

What is the (RED) Campaign?  Well, if you've been living in a bubble, it is the partnership between American Express, Apple, Converse, Dell, Emporio Armani, Gap, Hallmark, Starbucks, and Microsoft to help aid The Global Fund.  This is where you can find your red ipods, your red credit card, red laptop, red sunglasses, red T-shirts, and your red copy of Windows Vista.

What is The Global Fund?  It is one of the largest public/private partnership organizations to disperse international health financing.

"Since its creation in 2002, the Global Fund has become the main source of finance for programs to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, with approved funding of US$ 15.6 billion for more than 572 programs in 140 countries. It provides a quarter of all international financing for AIDS globally, two-thirds for tuberculosis and three quarters for malaria.

Global Fund financing is enabling countries to strengthen health systems by, for example, making improvements to infrastructure and providing training to those who deliver services. The Global Fund remains committed to working in partnership to scale up the fight against the diseases and to realize its vision – a world free of the burden of AIDS, TB and malaria."


I like my beans ground on a number 2.  They always ask, "What's that for?"  I deduct that number 2 is a vestigial grind, left over from some more flamboyant era because no one uses it anymore.  Anyways, when you're using a paper cone, a number 2 grind works perfect for me. 


I also like my coffee best when it's served in a wacky mug...



Authordavid koch
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 photo by Dave Koch

Here is the perfect Spring drink to celebrate everything coming into bloom.  

Hibiscus Bubbles

It is pink.  It has bubbles.  It is easy.  You can make the extract ahead so that you have more time to spend with your guests.  What more do you really want?

Hibiscus is most commonly found in the form of a drink at Mexican restaurants as an agua fresca commonly called jamaica.  You often find it on ice, in large jars, with metal ladles.  It is tart, fragrant, and absolutely delicious.    

My only complaint is that in aguas frescas, I think its wonderful astringency is often masked with too much sugar.  But then again, I don't drink it everyday so... who am I to blow against the wind?  

You buy hibiscus as dried flowers like these:








 Bring 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar to a boil.  Turn the heat off.  Add 1 cup of dried hibiscus flowers.  Allow to steep for 20 minutes.  Strain to get your hibiscus extract.  The extract can be added with water and ice in a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio for making aguas frescas.

Dried hibiscus flowers can be found at any Mexican market, and remember: they are almost always found under their Spanish name jamaica.  


You can also get them online at

Buy Authentic Mexican Food at!






Once you've made your hibiscus extract, to make Hibiscus Bubbles, add about a tablespoon to each Champagne flute and then fill with a sparkling wine.  We used a "California Champagne" but an Italian Prosecco or Spanish Cava would also be fantastic.



 As long as it is sparkling, it doesn't really matter.  My only advise?  I wouldn't use something very expensive because the tartness of the hibiscus and the added sugar take center stage.   They will mask any subtle nuance you may have paid for.



We dropped in a flower into each glass for presentation.  Enjoy! 

Authordavid koch
CategoriesDrinks, Recipes
2 CommentsPost a comment

photo by Antoinne Rimes

It's over!  I have said so long to Starbucks' coffee.  We grew apart awhile ago and only recently did I try to salvage the relationship. I want to say it's not them but me, but it's really them.  Or, I should say it's because of Peet's coffee that I no longer care for Starbucks' coffee anymore. 

I was so into Starbucks.  I had their coffee everyday like clockwork.  A venti cappuccino with two packets of Splendawas my order.  I was there so much the baristas didn't ask me for my drink order anymore.  They would say, " …and anything to eat?" 

I was Norm and Starbucks was my Cheers

Then, it, crashed into my life.  I don't know if it was the longing for something new, or the feeling that I just could not go on being unhappy and feeling like there was something missing from my daily brew.  I knew I was stepping over a line that most never cross, but I needed to feel whole.  

I needed to know that there was no other option out there that I was letting slip by because I was comfortable where I was at. 

That's how I was seduced over to the dark, intense flavor of Peet's coffee.  Like some exotic beauty with luscious lips and curvy hips, Peet's coffee-soul kissed me away from the frumpy girl next door: Starbucks. 

Starbucks coffee is like being kissed on the cheek at the family reunion by the pretty cousin you have a crush on, and Peet's coffee is like being French kissed by a naked Rosario Dawson on a deserted strip of beach in the Caribbean.  I could never go back once I tasted the deep roasted flavor of Peet's slightly bitter brew.  

After one sip of Peet's coffee, Starbucks' coffee seemed like a warm beverage for children.  There was no depth of flavor, no hint of far off lands and foreign cultures like there was in every sip of Peet's lovely brew.  Starbucks' coffee simply lay there and expected me to be happy that I was with it… no effort, no passion, only hype.  While Peet's coffee would grab me, feel me up, and then kiss me, as if it was saying, "Hello, baby, I really missed you."

In time, I went hard core and started getting my small cappuccino dry with four packets of Splenda.  The sweet taste of Splenda melded with the bitter taste of Peet's coffee, transforming my drink into and exciting mélange of flavor and seduction.  I tasted dark chocolate with cherry overtones, and the sweet bitterness of dark treacle.  

This coffee…this woman, dark and lovely is my mistress.  She is my passion, my obsession, and my muse.  I am merely existing in-between the times when I have her and when I do not. 

Good bye, Starbucks… pretty, dull cousin.  Hello my dark beauty, my love.

AuthorAntoinne von Rimes
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photo by Dave Koch

Sorry to all those barista who procrastinated but registration for the Milrock Free Pour Latte Art Championship is closed.  Held at the trade show Coffee Fest, the event is considered the Super Bowl for over achieving barista everywhere.  This year Coffee Fest will be in Las Vegas and, appropriately enough, in Seattle. 

Seattle of course topping the 2008 Caffeinated Cities Survey for coffee consumption in the US, with 59% of respondent consuming it daily.

OK I was only trying to scare you, registration for Las Vegas is still open, but Seattle really is closed.  So start taking pictures of your latte art because you need to submit two photo examples with your entry form.  

There is a lot at stake here with the $5,000 grand prize, bragging rights, and glory.  You may even end up on the Food Network with Guy Fieri or on the cover of Barista Magazine.  So get practicing.

From Coffee Fest, the rules of engagement are as follows:

"Contestants will be given five minutes to prepare the work area, adjust grind etc. Following the five minute preperation [sic] time, contestants will be given five minutes to produce as many as three different free-pour lattes.

At the completion of the five minutes or three free pour lattes, the drinks will be judged based upon : esthetic beauty & balance > 1-25pts., color infusion > 1-25pts., definition > 1 25pts., and creativity > 1-15pts.

No additives other than the espresso and milk may be used in this competition. The drink receiving the highest score from the judges will be used as the contestants submission."


Here are some great examples of what these artists can do with steamed milk and espresso...


photo by jonas_l


photo by ~ggvic~


photo by thebrady


photo by strikeseason


photo by lorisrandom


photo by tavallai


photo by ChrisB_in_SEA


photo by tonx


photo by amanky

I think the one that says, "U Suc" is my favorite.

Which one is yours?


Authordavid koch
5 CommentsPost a comment

Since my earlier attempt at making Kombucha from scratch was a total failure, I ordered a scoby online.  This makes sense to me because virtually all things fermented are started with leftovers from the last batch; think sourdough, brewers yeast, and vinegar.  From generation to generation, these "starters" were passed on.  The exception being Lambic, which is traditionally allowed spontaneous fermentation, but that's another story...


What arrived was a 1 inch thick gelatinous mass called a scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast).  It may have cost me $10 after shipping and handling.  I brewed up a gallon of tea with 7 Lipton Original tea bags and a cup of sugar.  I waited for it to cool to room temperature so that the heat does not harm the scoby, and I dropped it into a 1 gallon glass jar.


I covered it with some cloth (or you could also use a coffee filter) and secured it well with a rubberband.  Within a few days, a new, much thinner scoby began to form on the surface.  After about two weeks I used a straw to push aside the new scoby and tasted it like a bartender, capping the straw with my finger.

Once it was ready I strained it into a pitcher.  With the pitcher it was easier able to pour into sanitized stopper-top beer bottles using a funnel .  If you like your kombucha sweeter, don't let it ferment as long - the longer you let it go, the more sugar is converted into acetic acid (vinegar).

I used the stopper-tops because they are less likely to explode if too much pressure builds inside (see the bottle above, like the brands Grolsch or Fischer).  With a standard bottle cap, supposedly this can occur, or the caps shoot off making kombucha geysers in your cabinet.

Another week in the bottle allows the kombucha to carbonate itself naturally (like Krausening beer).  The result is a slightly sweet and tangy carbonated iced tea.  There is nothing similar to compare it too, kombucha really is in a category of its own.

In my second batch, I experimented by adding the juice of a large ginger root.  I shreded the whole root with a microplane (there's no need to even peel it), picked it up with a clean hand and squeezed the juice out.  Holy schniekies, this is the way to go!  Granted, I'm a ginger-freak who never leaves any left at the sushi bar, but this is an invigorating drink.  Ginger kombucha comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

I'm going to try upping the sugar this next round in order to make something even more tart.  I'm going to add more tea as well.  The current recipe is very good and quite refreshing, but I desire something with a little more umph.  I'm also going to experiment with different additions, herbs, spices, etc. in the coming weeks.  Maybe mint next!

Making Kombucha from a purchased scoby is incredibly easy - just keep everything sterile.  I use an industrial strength, iodine-based sanitizer, but you could also use a diluted bleach solution.  Before you begin, I suggest that you read the following websites very carefully - and take notes:

Kombucha and Vinegar Making - by Dominic N Anfiteatro

Making Kombucha  Mushroom Tea - by The Happy Herbalist

How to Make Kombucha - by Seeds of Health



Authordavid koch
CategoriesDrinks, Recipes
2 CommentsPost a comment

photo by idogcow


I've been a frequent patron of Starbucks nearly my whole life but it wasn't too long ago that I learned that their Venti size latte (Large) only has two shots of espresso in it.  

Note:  A hot Venti beverage has only two shots.  An iced Venti does have three, but I don't think it should even be called an Iced Venti because Venti means 20 and refers to the number of ounces in the paper cup - the plastic cup for the iced Venti's is 24 ounces.  They should call it a Ventiquattro!

So for 15+ years I've been ordering my Lattes in a Venti thinking I'm getting 50% more espresso than if ordered a Grande (Medium) - but I'm not!  I'm only getting more milk!  Their hot sizes follow a 1-1-2-2 shot formula for Short - Tall - Grande - Venti (Extra Small - Small - Medium - Large).

So I'm talking to a cool barista the other day and she tells me that the 1-1-2-2 formula is different for the Americano!  Those follow a true 1-2-3-4 formula for Short - Tall - Grande - Venti.  Odd.

I confirmed this on this Starbucks Menu Chart someone put together.  The chart also points out how many different ways there are to put these drinks together - and that your average barista likely knows them.  It reads like a glossary:

Breve - Made with half and half instead of regular milk. This makes it a bit thicker, a bit sweeter, a bit more expensive and a lot more fattening.

Organic - Some stores also have organic milk available. It'll cost extra, and they may have to go looking for it, since almost no one orders it (in my area at least).

140 degrees - No, this is not the newest boy band. If you find normal drinks too hot to drink, and want to save your tastebuds from a fiery death, order your drink at a hundred and forty degrees -- this is still quite warm, but not tongue-roasting.

Kid's - By Starbucks rules, any drink that's going to be served to a child must be no hotter than 130 degrees. Keep this in mind when you go cheap and order the $1.00 kid's hot chocolate.


Digging around, I also found the Starbucks Gossip site (unofficial?).  Some of the forum topics were pretty interesting.  Mostly baristas complaining about people ordering wacky things and people complaining about getting charged differently in different places.  This is from an entry in one of the forums:

 "I have no idea how to charge a single cup of french press because I was under the impression that we charged for the whole press [in fact, my shift charged a woman for the whole press just last night].

It's frustrating. Not to mention when I charge someone correctly and a shift or manager comes up behind me, prescreen's my screen, rerings up the customer and charges them for significantly less. Thus making me feel and look like a total asshat."


I'm sticking to my Tall Americano's.


 Starbucks Sumatra

Authordavid koch
CategoriesDrinks, Humor

I was recently introduced to a new bourbon (new to me) that had a little more kick to it than I'm used to... and I liked it.  That zing is attributed to the unusually high rye content, being around 30%.  I checked out their website and read their "Legend."

"In the 1830s, as a tavern keeper in Louisville, Kentucky, Augustus Bulleit set himself on a mission: to create a bourbon unique in flavor.  After countless small-batch trials, he came upon a bourbon with the character he had been seeking.  

While transporting barrels of his bourbon from Kentucky to New Orleans, Augustus Bulleit vanished. What happened to him is still unknown, and his creation could have passed into history as well.

But after more than a century, in 1987, his great-great -grandson Tom Bulleit stepped in. A lawyer by profession, Tom's lifelong dream had been to revive the family’s bourbon legacy, started more than 150 years ago."


I love stories like this.  It reminds me much of the history of Samuel Adams Lager and how Jim Koch dug up his great-great-grandfather's recipe for "Louis Koch Lager" -  developed in the 1860's.

There is a review for Bulleit on Liquor Snob that filled me in on some of the gaps in my bourbon knowledge:

"Although a common misconception is that all bourbon must come from Kentucky, actually bourbon can legally be made anywhere in America. However, it must be at least 51% corn and the rest of it wheat, rye or barley, plus it must be aged in new charred oak barrels."


My friend Colin Cook manages Bulleit for Southern Wine and Spirits who tells me:

"Bulleit Bourbon has really taken off in the city of San Francisco.  More cases of Bulleit are sold here than in LA and San Diego combined, due in large part by the “grass-roots”backing of the brand by the SF Bartenders Guild.  The now nationally famous “Bulleit Revolver” cocktail (conceived at Bourbon and Branch) helped put Bulleit Bourbon on the map too!"


Bulleit Revolver

                2 oz. Bulleit Bourbon

                ½ oz. of Tia Maria

                2 dashes of orange bitters

Cocktail is stirred over ice (not shaken!) then strained and served up with a flaming orange peel.


Authordavid koch
CategoriesDrinks, History

GT Dave's is not the failure, mine is

Kombucha is so hot right now.  With the popularity of Kombucha syrocketing, I tried making some from scratch (note: do not try this at home, I am a professional, and an idiot, and I can eat damn-near anything without getting sick).  

I've been brewing beer for almost 15 years, I make my own vinegar; the former is yeast, the latter is acetobacter - kombucha, however, is both... 

When I tell you that Kombucha is "so hot right now" I'm not joking.  According to the NY PostLindsay Lohan and Kirsten Dunst are drinking it (they postulate for it's supposed detoxifying properties) and Marie Claire UK says Halle Berry, Madonna, and Meg Ryan have been drinking it too.

So hot.

One of the most popular brands (seen here) is GT Dave's.  It is 'sprouting' up at more than just health food stores; I've seen it at deli's and corner stores.  There are now 13 flavors and if you are a novice, I suggest the Gingerade or one of the Synergy flavors first (they have fruit juice added).


Let's back up.  Kombucha dates back more than 2000 years and it is a symbiotic relationship between a yeast culture and a bacteria culture (mostly acetobacters) simultaneously fermenting sweetened black or green tea.  This culture takes shape as a rubbery-gelatinous disk that hovers in the tea as it goes through fermentation.  

The disk is referred to as a SCOBY, a 'Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast'.  As the yeast is consuming the sugars and turning them into carbon dioxide and ethanol - the bacteria is turning the ethanol into acetic acid (vinegar).  The result?  Kombucha is a sweet, tangy, carbonated, iced tea.  How sweet, tangy, and carbonated it ends up varies from batch to batch.

People sell Scoby's online and I read about several people starting their own culture from a bottle GT Dave's - my hubris takes over and  I decided to experiment.  I make two batches, I try to cultivate one from the store bought kombucha, the other I try to Frankenstein. 





I start by making tea using 'good ole' Lipton's black with 7 tea bags.  I add a cup of plain white sugar, dissolve it, and divide it into two.

I add one 15g packet of Coopers Brewers' Yeast and one 16oz. bottle of Bragg's Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar (unfiltered, unpasteurized) to the brew and label it #2.



To batch #1, I add a 16oz. bottle of GT Dave's Original.

I wait.


After one week, there is action in #2 (The Frankenstein); there is a film beginning to cover the surface and a distinct vinegar aroma taking over the kitchen.  There is nothing going on in #1.  Frankenstein is far cloudier than #1, far more pungent, and there are obvious signs of fermentation going on - effervescence, things floating around, and its appearance changes with every glance...

I'm making something here, but at this point I'm not sure what.

Weeks two, three, and four go by.  The action in Frankenstein plateaus at about week 5.  Meanwhile, there is still nothing much going on in #1.  Maybe some bigger lumps, or maybe not; maybe those were there before... I'm bored with #1.  Frankenstein however, is alive.  It's alive!  Week six comes and I contemplate botteling when...


"The Literature" suggests this is a result of the Ph not dropping quickly enough (becoming acidic) and thus allowing spores to propagate.  I also read that although the acetobacters in the Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar may be similar to a Kombucha scoby, the yeast strains are quite different.  

I won't get into technicalities here (because I'd likely be called out by a real Biologist) but the resulting brew got poured down the drain.  I will write more with the results of the other later.

"You seek for knowledge and wisdom, as I once did; and I ardently hope that the gratification of your wishes may not be a serpent to sting you, as mine has been." - Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Authordavid koch
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photo by Loren Tama

Open That Bottle Night (OTBN) was created by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, wine-loving husband-wife authors of the Wall Street Journal Tastings column. OTBN is the one night each year when wine lovers around the world open that bottle they are afraid to open. It is the bottle people cherish, the one that is most special to us. Maybe we received it from a past loved one, a special winery visit, or maybe it’s a bottle we bought but couldn’t afford. Ultimately it is the bottle that, if we hold it for too long, will result in disappointment. OTBN encourages you to open that bottle.

People around the world celebrate OTBN on the last Saturday of February with food, family, friends, or sometimes in the comfort of solitude. Dottie and John highlight some of the more notable experiences in their Tastings column. 

This year for Open That Bottle Night I surprised my girlfriend by taking her to Vinopolis, a wine tasting and education experience in London ( While we found the atmosphere cheesy and the “experience” to be catered to wine neophytes, the opportunity to taste new and obscure wines made the event pleasurable. 

Of the 22 wines we tasted (we each had 11 small pours, which we shared), our favorite by far was a Mavrud from Bulgaria. We found the Mavrud laid-back and pleasing; it tasted predominantly of berries, with just enough black cherry and tobacco to add nice depth to every sip. The wine felt young, but not over-simplified or abrasive. At £6.99 this wine was a steal by UK standards, so we came home with a case. Neither of us had ever tasted Bulgarian wine before.

After Vinopolis, the special part of the evening really began. A little tipsy and laden with a case of wine, we cancelled our restaurant plans to come home and make linguine from scratch. We found it ironic to celebrate OTBN with an “everyday” wine, but our pasta was perfect and it tasted even better with a newly-acquired bottle of Mavrud. 


AuthorLoren Tama
CategoriesDrinks, History