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Mar 1, 201205:00 AM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

What's in a Name?

What's in the bottle? What's going on Monday evening?

Image Courtesy of zimmytws, stock.xchng, 2006

Skinnygirl pre-mixed-with-alcohol margarita cocktail burst onto the scene just a short while ago, and it has been by all measures a huge success. I don’t think they will mind use of the term “huge.” After all, the mission of Skinnygirl is to provide cocktail enjoyment without as many of those pesky calories as are usually found in such concoctions.

Skinnygirl is not to be confused with zero-calorie soft drinks. There is no way to enjoy alcoholic beverages and avoid calories. And there never will be thanks to the truisms of distillation and fermentation. Calories follow these processes for making spirits and wines just like your dog follows you to the dinner table. And it will always be so. The calories, that is, maybe not so much your dog.

Anyway, the success of the original Skinnygirl margarita, at 100 calories per 4-ounce serving, has not been lost on the company, which has since released sangria at 132 calories per 5-ounce servings and white cranberry cosmo 100 calories per 4-ounce serving.

My gut tells me that, in New Orleans, the consumer adds more of the base spirit to the Skinnygirl pre-mix. There is already alcohol in the Skinnygirl bottle, but knowing us, we will want more. By doing this, we are starting the calorie level at a lower point than if we made the drinks from scratch. While one of the points of Skinnygirl is the low-calorie aspect, we probably tend to appreciate the convenience more than the “health” benefits.

Skinnygirl has now branched out into stand-alone spirits (like vodka) and wine (red, white and rosé). All are based on the company’s core mission, providing adults with beverages they would normally drink - but with lower caloric contents. The wines will be 100 calories per 5 ounce pour, about 25 fewer than normal wines contain.

The purchasing public has most definitely sat up and taken notice. The sangria, introduced towards the end of last summer, sold 61,000 cases through end of December; and the white cranberry cosmo, on the market since just before the holidays, sold 50,000 cases in just two months.

Dogfish Head Brewery has gone where no brewery has gone before. Oh yeah, they are out there. Way out there.

The Delaware operation has blended wine and beer. But not just any wine. They are working with grapes affected by the Noble Rot. This condition, properly known as botrytis, is usually associated with Sauternes and Tokaji dessert wines. It occurs when the grapes are allowed to hang on the vine for a very long time, well after the time of a normal harvest. Under certain atmospheric circumstances, a fungus attacks the individual grapes, piercing the skins and allowing a lot of the water to escape the berry. What is left on the vine is a cluster of grapes laden with sweet liquid.

The pinot gris and viognier grapes used in the beer are from Alexandria Nicole Cellars in Washington State. Talk about finding other uses for your main product line, these guys have hit it here.

Then along comes Dogfish Head Brewery, already suspect because of their strange name (methinks beer was not the only factor involved in the settling on the moniker), and they take barley, water, hops and yeast, blend these essential beer ingredients with the botrytised grapes, and, voila, you have Noble Rot Beer. 

The final product is 9%, alcohol by volume, and will be released very soon (it has already been released in some places) in 750-ml bottles at a cost of around $13 each, which seems pretty reasonable.

I don’t know if we will see any in this market, but if you are as curious as I am, it may be worth your while to see if the bright lads at the brewery will let you purchase some.

Incidentally, along the lines of "something for everyone in this column" (we are nothing if we are not democratic here at the Happy Hour Institute of Fine Beverages and Washeteria), this coming Monday over at the popular grub-pub, Capdeville, a new whiskey to our shelves, High West, will be introducing itself to us.

There will be a talk about rye whiskey and a free tasting (oh sure, now I’ve got your interest), and the bar gang at Capdeville will be creating special cocktails, no doubt assisting in the explanation of how, opening in 2004, a group of whiskey lovers decided to put a new distillery in Utah. For that feat alone, they probably deserve our support.

The proceedings will begin about 5:30. Capdeville is located, and this may not help you much if you have not been there already, at 520 Capdeville Street, only a block long, on the uptown side of the Federal Courthouse, between Camp and Magazine, less than a block from Lafayette Square. Enjoy!

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Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans


In New Orleans, when the subject is wine and spirits, it is very difficult to leave Tim McNally out of the discussion. He is considered one of the “go to” resources in the Crescent City for counsel and information about adult beverages and their place in the fabric of life in this great city.


Tim is the Wine and Spirits Editor, columnist and feature writer for New Orleans Magazine; the Wine and Spirits Editor and weekly columnist, Happy Hour, for www.MyNewOrleans.com; creator and editor of his own website, www.winetalknola.com; all in addition to his daily hosting duties on the radio program, The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, on the air at WGSO – 990AM, every weekday, 3- 5 p.m, and streamed live on www.wgso.com.


Over the years, Tim has proved to be an informed interviewer, putting his guests at ease, and covering tactile and technical information so that even a novice can understand difficult agricultural and production concepts. Tim speaks with winemakers, wine and spirit ambassadors, distillers, authors, people who stage events and festivals, and takes questions from listeners and readers, all seamlessly blended together in a program that is unique in America.


Tim’s love of wine actually came about many years ago from his then wife-to-be, Brenda Maitland, a noted journalist in her own right, and together they have traveled to the major wine producing areas in the US and Europe, seeking first-hand information about beverages that give us all so much pleasure.


They were instrumental in the founding of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, a major national and international well-regarded festival of its type. They both continue to be involved with the planning and staging of this multi-venue, five-day event now over twenty years old.


Tim is also considered one of the foremost professional wine judges in the US, being invited to judge more than 11 wine competitions each year, including the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (the largest competition of American wines in the world, with more than 6,000 entries), the Riverside, CA International Wine Competition, San Francisco International Wine Competition, Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition, Indiana International Wine Competition, Sandestin, Florida Wine Festival Competition, the State of Michigan Wine Competition, the U.S. National Wine Competition, and the National Wine Competition of Portugal.


Tim is a guest lecturer to many local wine and dine organizations, and speaks each year to the senior class in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama.


Staying abreast of the news of the wine and spirits world is a passion for Tim, and he is committed to sharing what he knows with his listeners and readers. “Doing something I love, with products that I truly enjoy, created by interesting people, coupling the experience with culinary excellence, and doing it all in the greatest city in America,” are the words Tim lives by.


It’s a good gig. 




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