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Jan 10

Tassimo Brewbot: And the Winner is …

This is the first time I’ve had a giveaway where I truly wish I had more than one item to give. I wish I could give a Tassimo to all of you! Unfortunately, there can be only one and the Random Number Generator at Random.org picked number 32!

Comment number 32 was left by Evan! Evan, I’ll be in touch shortly with the information you’ll need to acquire your new Brewbot.

As for everyone else, thank you for such a crazy successful giveaway and happy new year!

FTC Goodness Reiterated: We received the brewer and some T-discs at no cost for review (although I did run out and buy a bunch) and giveaway; all the opinions belong to me – no one paid me for them.

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Michelle at 10:15 am in Contests | Permalink | Comments (9)
Jan 07

Swizzle Sticks: The Stirring Story

A couple of months ago, I was sent a story by Stephan Visakay about swizzle sticks (which I happen to collect). I was so thrilled, I asked him, with Maddy Lederman, to write an article for the blog.

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“The difficulty of securing a cherry resting at the bottom of a cocktail glass without resorting to boorish antics obnoxious to people accustomed to polite social usages is so well known as to have become a matter of public comment and jest.”

–Jay Sindler

In his three-page patent copy, Jay Sindler used the cherry to describe how necessary his new invention, the Swizzle Stick, was, but legend has it the idea was sparked by an olive.

It was February 1934, a few months after Prohibition had ended. Sindler, an employee of the Converse Rubber Company and an avid inventor, sat contemplating his martini at the Boston Ritz Carlton’s bar one night, faced with the challenge of removing his olive without dipping his fingers into his gin. I like to think Sindler was on his second or third martini when it all came together.  He envisioned a small spear with a paddle-like handle, imprinted with an establishment’s name like a miniature billboard.  It would be something the patrons could take home, cheaper than a book of printed matches and cheaper still than the cost of vanishing ashtrays and cocktail glasses. Sindler’s patent, number 1,991,871, was granted on February 19, 1935.

Polite society caught on to Sindler’s invention and his new company Spir-it was off to a promising start.

There was some competition, however. With Repeal, all the great glass companies began to manufacture bar ware. Stirring rods once used by 1920’s Flappers were now mass-produced. Unlike the swizzle stick, glass swizzles didn’t have a pointed spear for fruit garnishes and were costly to silk-screen with a hotel logo. Some glass companies had the novel idea of inserting a tube of paper with advertising copy into a glass rod and sealing the end like a message in a bottle, but costly and impractical, this didn’t last.  Today this type of hollow (and easily broken) stirrer is one of the most sought after by collectors. Other attractive materials include Bakelite and Catalin.

Major developments in plastic manufacturing came along with World War II. By the 1950’s swizzle sticks came in an incredible array of shapes and colors and served as inexpensive advertisements for clubs, casinos, restaurants and airlines. All establishments had a custom swizzle stick even if they made do with the cheaper, stock version; a straight, tapered rod with a paddle signboard imprinted with a tavern’s logo.

Into the 1960′s and the Space Age, there was a boom in the electronics industries calling for precision plastic parts which led to new technologies in thermosetting plastic injection molding. The period from the late 1950’s throughout the 1960’s was a Golden Age for signature swizzle sticks.

Swizzle Sticks from Michelle's Own Collection

Drinks served on TWA flights sported a red propeller swizzle. At Trader Vic’s, a Hawaiian outrigger canoe paddle with a Tiki God handle graced the drinks at the venerable bar. The Thunderbird Hotel and Swim Club in Miami Beach featured a Flying Thunderbird on top of it’s swizzle with the name in large script over the shaft. Playboy’s signature bunny-head sat atop their swizzles which, for some reason, were extra long. Many people saved the Playboy swizzle if they ever came across it. In fact, most of us have a few swizzle sticks saved somewhere. Taking a swizzle as a memento was encouraged. They were a promotional calling card or a remembrance of a wonderful trip or night on the town and they disappeared from nightclubs and hotel bars as fast as they were set out.

The swizzle sticks’ popularity didn’t last forever, or even very far into the 1970′s. For example, during the Carter years, the White House was dry. It was beer and wine only at State functions, no doubt the reason why Jimmy was a one term President. When he derided the “fifty dollar martini lunch” for businessmen, former House Speaker Jim Wright (D-TX), replied, “If the Good Lord hadn’t intended us to have a three martini lunch, then why do you suppose He put all those olive trees in the Holy Land?”

Inventor Jay Sindler would have agreed.

©

SIDE BAR

Check out clubs such as the International Swizzle Stick Collectors Association (ISSCA), www.swizzlesticks-issca.com.

ISSCA President Ray Hoare and thousands of collectors world-wide, sociologists and anthropologists agree that these miniature, pop-culture icons give us an inside look at the past and are a valued collectable worth saving for future generations. And besides, they can still be used to stir your favorite drink.

If you’re looking for swizzles for your next party ask your parents, they probably have a box full somewhere. Or you can purchase swizzle sticks from the company started by Jay Sindler, they’re still in business. Spirit Foodservice, Inc has a fantastic web site with eco-friendly and biodegradable options. Marketing Manager Rachel Pantely tells us that swizzles are hotter than ever with the increased interest in retro cocktails.  www.spiritfoodservice.com

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Stephen Visakay is author of Vintage Bar Ware (Collector Books 1997) and has written for antique, collectible, and trade magazines. His cocktail shaker exhibition, “Shaken, Not Stirred, Cocktail Shakers and Design” has been featured in museums nationwide, including The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, The Louisiana State Museum, and The Milwaukee Art Museum.  Contact: visakay@optonline.net

Maddy Lederman is a writer and a filmmaker. maddyfilms@hotmail.com

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Michelle at 9:42 am in Cocktails, Guest Writers, History, Wine Misc | Permalink | Comments (12)
Jan 05

Wintry Ale

‘Tis the season for winter ales, and though we may hate the mall traffic, charity guilt trips, and huge bills we ran up over the holidays, we can all agree on one aspect of this chilly season that we love: the beer.

What better way to embrace your inner jolly than to grab a winter ale or two and cozy up to the fire (chestnuts encouraged).  I have tried a few winter beers this season and hope to guide you to a warm-up-your-toes selection in the same way that Rudolph guides Santa’s sleigh. *Disclaimer: I did not drink all these beers in a single sitting.*


Delirium Noel 2009
Fact: Delirium makes great beer.  It is a tad pricey, but this Christmas beer would be perfect for the beer lover on your list or a Secret Santa who enjoys a craft brew.  A 22 oz. will cost around $10, but you get what you pay for.  It has an opaque brown color, a quickly dissipating head, thin lacing, and a spicy aroma.  Medium body, with full flavor.  Most Delirium beer you drink has a very fruity flavor and this is no exception.

Stone/n0gne-0/Jolly Pumpkin Special Holiday Ale 2009
Now this is an interesting beer.  Sometimes brewers do a collaboration project with one other brewery, but the three-headed team of Stone, n0gene-0, and Jolly Pumpkin came up with something special.  Of all the Christmas beers, this was the most interesting that I tried.  It has a complex flavor profile which makes it a beer to drink by itself.  It has a decent amount of carbonation, and it tastes like a Bonnaroo tent in your mouth.  This serving of liquid incense contains Caraway, Juniper, White Sage, and Chestnuts flavors.  I highly recommend this for anyone looking to try something outside the box.

Alesmith Yulesmith
A solid Christmas beer that starts with a spicy aroma.  It has a near perfect mouthfeel, not too heavy but not too light.  And the flavor finds a way to balance malt and hops very evenly and ends with a hoppy, dry finish.  A recommendation for anyone who enjoys I.P.A.s, but this would probably turn off the occasional beer drinker.

Anchor Brewing Company Our Special Ale 2010
Every year Anchor tweaks its Christmas beer recipe.  I can respect that.  If Bob Dylan taught us anything it is that the times they are a-changin’.  It has a dark, chocolate brown color with some flecks of ruby when you hold it up to the light.  The aroma contains ginger, caramel, and roasted malt.  A combo of sweetness, ginger, and toffee make you want to keep drinking this beer.  I will be waiting patiently for next year’s release!

Bell’s Christmas Ale
Bell’s is one of my favorite breweries, so I had high hopes for this beer and I was not disappointed.  It is a light brown color, almost amber with a slightly hoppy smell.  The taste has a delicious malt flavor with some citrus and hop notes.  The mouthfeel is smooth and rich.  And it has very well done balanced finish.  I hope my stocking is stuffed with a few of these come Christmas morning.

Breckenridge Christmas Ale
I feel like this is a middle of the road Christmas Ale.  It has a brown, slightly red color with a spicy, cinnamon nose.  The flavor is malty and spicy with a bubbly, carbonated mouthfeel.  One surprise is the amount of alcohol in this beer at 7.4% ABV, which can help you loosen up around those pesky in-laws.

Christian Moerlein Christkindl
A beer that most Cincinnatians hold dear to their hearts.  Moerlein’s Christkindl is a unique take on the Christmas beer.  It plays off the memory association of Christmas and a particular taste, chocolate.  This is not a chocolate beer.  But the chocolate flavor reminds you of being a kid opening presents on Christmas morning.  There is definitely something nostalgic about this beer.  It has an amber color with a spot of gold, and a hoppy, caramel aroma.  The malt taste carries throughout the beer and meshes well with the chocolate.  A great 6-pack gift option for loved ones or yourself.

Christmas comes only once a year which is a bummer that you can only experience some of these beers for a short time.  I have a nagging suspicion that mid-April I will find myself jonesing for Special Holiday Ale 2009.  Luckily spring beers are around the corning.

Cheers to your good health!

- Steve

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Posted by Steve at 9:31 am in Beer, Beer-Guy.net | Permalink | Comments (14)
Jan 03

Tassimo Brewbot Review and Giveaway

Every so often, a non-alcoholic beverage item comes my way for review.  In this case, I agreed for two reasons: I love tea and hot chocolate and they offered a machine for giveaway. Since the giveaway is valued at about $129.99, it seemed like a great opportunity for you guys!

It was a big coffee-maker holiday for Kevin and I. The nice folks from Tassimo sent us the T20 Single Serve Brewbot to review (and keep, so thank you!). Additionally, my mom bought us a Keurig single-serve coffee maker as well. Since Mom bought the Keurig, it’s going to stay at home and the Tassimo is going to work with Kevin soon. But we like them both, for different reasons.

If you haven’t played with a single-serve coffee maker, you should. You see, I don’t drink coffee at all, but I do love tea and hot chocolate. Kevin, on the other hand, is a huge coffee drinker. We can both make our respective drinks using one single-serve machine. It’s fantastic. Even better, my tea doesn’t taste at all like his coffee, because each drink is made from one single-serve disc.

Tassimo

The Tassimo T20 Brewbot from Bosch has a water filtration system built right in, which is nice. On top of that, it’s small and compact, which is another reason it’s the machine heading to Kevin’s desk. The technology behind it is pretty cool at that. Each single-serve T-Disc has a bar code imprinted on the top. The machine reads the bar code and “knows” whether you’ve put in a disc for espresso, cappuccino, earl grey, or a cup of Starbucks. It then brews the right amount at the right temperature based on the information it scans in that bar code. It fits any size cup as well, which is cool. I discovered that you can remove the cup base and suddenly a travel mug fits right under the spout.

My favorite thing about the T20 is its ability to steam milk. I love chai latte, and the T20 makes a great one. I purchased a box of Twinings chai latte, which comes with discs for both chai and latte. First I pop in the chai disc and hit the Brew button. The T20 brews up a small amount of exceedingly strong chai. Next I pop in the matching latte disc and the T20 steams enough milk to fill up, and froth up, my cup. A little stirring and I have a nice chai latte that did not involve me trying to steam the milk myself or use a liquid chai – all in about a 3 minute time period.

There are a lot of options available for the Tassimo Brewbots, including Twinings and Tazo for tea, Milkka for hot chocolate, and Starbucks and Gevalia for chocolate. Boxes of 16 discs run about $20 at Bed, Bath & Beyond and on Amazon. You can also “subscribe” to boxes on Amazon and find them cheaper. Tassimo offers more than 40 beverage
and flavor varieties to satisfy everyone.

Personally, I’m in love with the convenience of a single-serve coffee maker like this. Sure, there will still be occasions when I’ll heat up the tea kettle or fire up the coffee pot, but the convenience factor is just amazing for a quick cuppa. Even at a party we hosted the other night, it was great to offer people different options – would you like Starbucks, Gevalia, or something else? We’ve got it all.

Giveaway

What you’ve all been waiting for is the giveaway – how can you get your hands on one of these nifty little items? Easy.

1. Leave a comment below saying why you want the T20.

2. For an additional entry, tweet about this giveaway and then leave a comment linking back to your tweet. (My twitter ID is @writetechnology.)

When?

Now! Well, now through 11:59 pm EST on Sunday, December 9.

Rules

You must live in the United States. The nice folks at Tassimo will only ship domestic.

You must have a valid shipping address that I can give Tassimo, not a PO Box.

You must have a valid email address at which I can contact you.

You must have a valid user name that isn’t some spammy sort of thing. If it looks or sounds spammy at all, I reserve the right to delete you.

You are allowed one comment entry and one comment entry with a Twitter link. Not TWO comment entries UNLESS one of those includes a link back to your tweet.

I will “draw” a comment number using Random.org on Monday morning, January 10, and notify the winner via email. You’ll have 48 hours to respond before I give up and try another randomly generated number.

1/10/11 Update: And the winner is …

FTC Goodness: We received the brewer and some T-discs at no cost for review (although I did run out and buy a bunch)  and giveaway; all the opinions belong to me – no one paid me for them.

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Posted by Michelle at 8:19 am in Contests, Food and Drink | Permalink | Comments (73)

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