An Anchorage bar-hopper's essential guide to the latest nightlife action and coolest hot-spots.
What the Guinness? - 9/2/2011 8:43 am
Weekend Update and Whiskey Tips - 8/25/2011 8:53 am
Cocktails for a Cause - 7/13/2011 10:26 am
It's Summer Time! - 6/1/2011 7:51 am
Happy Earth Day! - 4/21/2011 9:49 am
Best Cocktails of 2010 - 4/1/2011 12:22 pm
St. Patrick's Day = Hooray! - 3/17/2011 9:46 am
Kenai Brewing Co. Releases Canned Beer! - 3/9/2011 12:05 pm
Posted: August 18, 2008 - 4:22 pm
This year I volunteered to judge the homemade beer, mead and wine competition for the Alaska State Fair. The impetus was the addition of a new category: "classic" drinks. Organizer Mary Helms told me that the inclusion of a classic drink category highlights the classic cocktails from the 1950s and '60s and honors the 50th anniversary of Alaska's statehood at the same time. The guidelines were that every ingredient in the classic drink had to be made from scratch -- simple syrup, margarita mix, everything. And, the drinks had to follow traditional recipes -- hence, the daiquiris we tasted were neither blended nor involving maraschino cherries.
Posted: August 15, 2008 - 4:43 pm
Prep your pina colada blenders, dust off your black hat and perfect your swaggering Jack Sparrow impersonation (voluntary or involuntary, though it may be) and get ready to celebrate, because Saturday is officially National Rum Day. No, it's not sponsored by Bacardi. Go figure.
The cocktail blog at about.com attempts to uncover the reasoning behind such a random day to celebrate rum (although, let’s face it, no day in Alaska will ever truly embrace the sun-drenched, tropical essence that embodies so much of the spirit). Some reasons may be that a bar that wanted to sell more mai tais and thus invented it or that it was created as a tribute to rum's early influence on the founding of America. But, it's still a mystery. So think on it, pour yourself a jigger and enjoy the sugarcane and molasses distilled wonder that goes just as well in a poundcake as it does in your belly.
Posted: August 14, 2008 - 4:03 pm
Posted: August 14, 2008 - 2:52 pm
It's that time of year again. The fireweed is blooming, the sunlight is waning and "back to school" sales are present in annoying abundance -- all depressing reminders that summer is on its way out.
The biggest reminder for Alaskans is the impending Alaska State Fair. It's mission? To provide enough entertainment, food and fun to distract us from the chilly breath of September on our necks.
For a nightlife-oriented person, however, the fair can be too much face paint and too little fermentation, if you catch my drift. So to assist those of us who are planning a Valley trip in the next two weeks, I've compiled some party-oriented suggestions.
Posted: August 11, 2008 - 2:41 pm
A friend called this weekend and said she'd seen a listing in the real estate section of the newspaper for Bernie's Bungalow Lounge. What's that about, she asked?
I hadn't the foggiest idea, so -- with a throat-clutch of anxiety at the thought of one of my favorite watering holes possibly going kaput -- I e-mailed Bernie Souphanavong himself to get the scoop.
Yes, the esteemed SoNo Bungalow is indeed on the market. Souphanavong is looking to sell -- but not close -- his famed bar.
"Basically I've been running a bar/restaurant for 16 years, and so much has changed with this business," Souphanavong said via e-mail. "Bernie's has grown to where it's no longer realistic to run this by myself."
Posted: August 7, 2008 - 3:58 pm
Wine and cheese parties are becoming more popular, but a recent blog post at cocktails.about.com asks, why not have a spirit tasting party? It’s a good idea: There are myriad spirit brands and flavors you could easily use for a neat tasting party.
Here are some easy party tips. Find a comprehensive list at cocktails.about.com
First, invite an intimate group -- no more than 10 at the most because you want the focus to be on “tasting,” not a “party.” When you’re using spirits, you know someone’s going to eventually start suggesting body shots if you don’t keep an eye on them.
Posted: August 1, 2008 - 8:39 am
"Eddie” is the type of name that connotes an easygoing air. It’s informal, a cavalier nickname that resounds with aplomb. Edward is the name of your professor, your doctor, your dad or a really hot vampire (“Twilight” fans, you know what I’m talking about), but Eddie is a name for a comrade-in-arms.
So when a fun-loving guy’s name tops a neon bar sign, you can’t help but think, “Hey, where there’s an Eddie, there are some good times to be had.” And, as most of us already know, there definitely are.
Eddie’s Sports Bar has all the essential ingredients of a sporty neighborhood saloon: TVs broadcasting various sports, neon beer and liquor signs, lots of space, and an extensive menu featuring the kind of fried, meat-heavy and juicy items many of us crave after a few beers or a hard day at work.
Posted: July 30, 2008 - 10:22 am
To follow up on Thursday's National Tequila Day festivities, I thought I’d suggest a few ways to drink tequila without downing a shot or making a margarita.
My first suggestion is to head to the Bear Tooth Grill and talk to Amy Mack. Just the other day we were discussing how hard it is to get people back on tequila once they’ve had a bad experience with either shots or margaritas. However, it’s a diverse alcohol and can be served a lot of ways.
One suggestion is the Paloma cocktail. This is similar to the Grill’s Refresca de la Hacienda, or “house refreshment,” which is basically the way they serve tequila in legitimate establishments in Mexico (thanks, Amy). In Mexico you get tequila in a glass with a shot of squirt and lime.
Posted: July 23, 2008 - 12:41 pm
Thursday is National Tequila Day, so get ready to celebrate with fellow patrons of Patron (that never gets old) at your favorite watering hole.
Is it just me, or is July full of days celebrating alcohol? Maybe that’s why so many people I know have birthdays in April. (That’s nine months later, for you slow counters.)
One place you might want to visit is the Bear Tooth Grill (1230 W. 27th Ave.), where the lovely Amy Mack assures me you can get a veritable smorgasbord of all things tequila. This includes tastings, margaritas and other cocktails created around the agave nectar.
Posted: July 18, 2008 - 10:09 am
If you’re like me -- finding the extensive, colorfully marked wine section at Brown Jug Warehouse on Old Seward a veritable playground of frolic-worthy fun -- then you’ll love this: There’s a new place to peruse pinots in town. It’s WineStyles , part of a large franchise ballooning in the Lower 48, which features all things wine-inspired as well as a selection of bottles all admirably priced between $10 and $25. (For fancier types, there’s also an “If You Insist” section, with a selection of wines more than $25, too.)
It’s slightly out of the way, situated across from Lowes on Old Seward, in a tiny, nondescript strip mall (11109 Old Seward Hwy, Suite 2). But as you enter, you realize the trip has been worth it. The walls are covered by wine in catacomb-esque nooks and crannies. Wine-themed gifts, trays, napkins, stoppers, glasses and a million more clever little items to tickle the fancies of oenophiles occupy the rest of the store.
Posted: July 17, 2008 - 10:12 am
Any new place is worth mention — and, in my opinion, a visit — but this week I found two new hot spots that are specifically geared toward the nightlife scene.
First, I’ll be honest: The moon hit my eye like a big piece of Pi Kitchen & Bar (the new eatery in the gargantuan Embassy Suites, 600 E. Benson Blvd., 332-7001), and it was definitely amore.
The new hotel’s wood-and-stone paneling, whale tail fountain in the entryway and spacious, soothing ambience sets up the Asian fusion bar and restaurant well. As soon as you walk in, you are drawn to the aromas, sounds and intimate feel on the north side of the building.
Posted: July 11, 2008 - 10:44 am
There’s a new cocktail on the block, and I cannot wait to tell you about it. If you’ve already had it, you’re in trouble for not telling me about it sooner, by the way. This drink is so good, that if it replaced water in my kitchen tap for the rest of the year, not only would I not complain, I would tip my utilities carrier regularly.
It’s called the Zipang cocktail, and it’s the clever creation of Amy Mack , mixologist and manager at the Bear Tooth Theatrepub. Here’s what’s involved: Zipang sparkling sake (who knew they had sparkling sake?), plum wine, quince preserves (preserves, mind you), chilled jasmine tea and house-made ginger lemon syrup (also found in the Bear Tooth’s Zen-tini).
Posted: July 10, 2008 - 9:56 am
If you like Pina Coladas (and/or Rupert Holmes ), you'll be happy to hear that July 10 marks national pina colada day in the United States. To celebrate, grab a friend and head to your favorite libation arena for some smooth, sweet and blended satisfaction. Or, head to the store, stock up on ice and ingredients and make your own pina colada party.
Here are some quick and easy recipes (from The Baddish Group) for yummy coconutty goodness.
Posted: July 8, 2008 - 1:09 pm
Hey cocktail crowd! I've found a great site on the Small Screen Network called "The Cocktail Spirit with Robert Hess." Hess, a Microsoft employee, web developer and cocktail aficianado, teamed up with Small Screen to create a series of online videos about various liquor-related and spirit-savvy topics. If you read my previous blog on the hot new drink in town, the Sazerac, you'll enjoy this site's three-part series on the special cocktail. It details the making and the history of the drink, along with other information. It's informative but quite entertaining, as well.
Posted: July 3, 2008 - 9:32 am
There’s a phrase that Monique Barker often lobs at her customers at Glacier Brewhouse: “There’s no charge for the sass.”
It’s a saying that helps clients relax in the usually busy atmosphere, but it also captures the bartender’s serving style and personality. Petite and closely resembling an Alaska version of Halle Berry, Barker has sass in abundance.
“I like the personality, the one-on-one,” Barker said of her gig. “People are happy when they come to see you, and you make them happy.”
Sure, the first thing you’ll notice about Barker is the pixie-esque, wide smile she flashes under thickly lashed eyes. But there are several ingredients to this cute little cocktail. She’s worked the Anchorage bar scene full-time for seven years. She has a concealed weapons permit and is a crack shot. She owns a Yamaha motorcycle — a big one. And you’d probably lose a bet if you tried guessing her age: She’ll turn 46 in September and has daughters that are 21 and 17 years old.
Posted: July 2, 2008 - 12:39 pm
So I have a suggestion, for whoever likes to plan things that include commemorative T-shirts, wrist and headbands - and for whoever likes to drink in good company. A bar crawl to beat all bar crawls, a 5-K that includes no exercise whatsoever - a bar bus tour. With a literal bus - I'm talking Laidlaw. And I'm speaking from experience, because I know it can be done.
This weekend I returned to my home town for the annual Kasilof 5-K. A tour of some of the coolest, old-schoolest and farthest-apart bars in the state. All via a big yellow school bus. If we can do it in Kasilof, why not Big Lake, or Wasilla? Why not an Anchorage-to-Eagle River tour? The possibilities are endless.
Posted: June 27, 2008 - 2:09 pm
As the weekend approaches, I'm struck with an interesting thought. Time and time again you hear the phrases, "Let's go have a cocktail" or "I need a cocktail." But what exactly is a cocktail?
Wikipedia says simply: "A cocktail is a style of mixed drink." That covers the definition today and the definition from 1803, the first known printed use of the word "cocktail" in terms of drinking. But originally the drink was meant to describe a mixture of spirits with sugar, water and bitters, to make it more palatable to imbibe. Now, a cocktail can mean anything - blending, mixing, adding salt - and include innumerable ingredients.
Posted: June 24, 2008 - 4:37 pm
Summer is in full gear, but it's also time to take advantage of daylight while we have it -- light is waning since last week's solstice. And it's important to remember one key thing for cocktail imbibing at home: If you fish or share a freezer with someone who does, use an ice bucket for any non-alcoholic drinks. There's nothing worse than mixing a chilled martini, taking a big sip and wondering if you accidentally dropped your Omega-3 fish oil capsule into it. Yech.
You can avoid altering the taste of any summertime chilled drink with a few simple steps. First, when you make cubes, make them with purified water -- impurities or minerals in ice melt can change the taste of the drink. Second, use a bucket and rotate the ice so that it's not just sitting bare in the freezer for long periods (insulated buckets are available). And finally, don't store your ice near smelly foods.
Posted: June 20, 2008 - 9:12 am
Rum-running historically means smuggling or transporting alcohol, or rum, over water (bootlegging being the land-based version). So I’m smuggling a scoop to you this week: One of downtown’s classic bars has returned. Yes, Rumrunner’s Old Towne Bar & Grill (415 E St., www.rumrunnersak.com)is back, with a grand opening celebration this weekend.
Memories of Rumrunner’s might include, for some, the thump of hip-hop vibrating beneath the dance floor, long lines both to get in and get a drink, strong cocktails mixed by bartenders who did tricks for tips and an incredibly difficult journey to the bathrooms. These memories may be smile-inspiring for some and anger-inducing for others. Either way, this bar is ready for a whole new set of recollections.
Posted: June 18, 2008 - 1:23 pm
With gas prices rising and the economy in a general slump there are certain things every individual has to choose to cut back on. Fortunately, wine doesn't have to be one of them. Good wine, that is. There will always be cheap, bottom-shelf, gallon jug and boxed versions of wine available, no matter how much it costs to fill your tank. But cheaper quality wine? Now that's something worth knowing about ahead of time.
Check out the list of selections from Mike Steinberger on slate.com, as he discusses the varying qualities of wines under $15 from different regions (note: pay attention to the hanging laminated signs at the Brown Jug warehouse that read "Italy" or "Spain").