Author: Rob Harrah

Dieting with Ethanol

It is that time of year again. That time when we stand upon our scales to scoff and cry then make the plans for a “new you,” well at least until February. The two things people concentrate the most on this time of year to help are dieting and cleanses. Most of these include not drinking for a period of time, however, we all know that everyone cheats. Friends still want to go out and have fun and sometimes you just don’t want to be the sober one, which is completely understandable and diet Jesus will forgive you. One thing people don’t realize there are actually ways to drink without interfering with your diet. The biggest issue with diets and drinking comes from the sugars that these beverages have, and yes, there are ways to drink guilt free. Here are some tips:

  1. Skinny is not the answer.

Skinny cocktails are good in theory, yet in reality they are just as bad if not worse for you then regular cocktails. Let’s look at the ever-so-popular skinny margarita. Skinny margaritas, from how I make them and how every bartender I know and worked with make them, is just the omittance of the added agave or simple syrup (sugar water). However, in order to offset that we add more lime juice. More lime juice means more sugar, more sugar means you might as well have ordered a regular margarita, especially since agave is better for you then lime juice. By just opting out of any additional sugar does not necessarily make the drink healthier by any means. Honestly, if you’re that concerned about it you shouldn’t be drinking margaritas or some other cocktails in the first place. Take it from someone who has spent a decade behind the bar, we don’t care about your weight, we don’t care about your diet, what we care about is making good cocktails. Think of us as chefs when people don’t want butter, we’ll just use more oil.

  1. Stick to the basics

By sticking to the basics, I mean stick to keeping your drink components simple. This means don’t order the margarita, instead order a tequila and soda water. Really any liquor and soda water or regular water is good. Soda water is just carbonated water, same calorie count as regular water which is typically a whopping zero. Another trick is just not to add anything at all, but this doesn’t mean take shots (or does it?). Or just drink the booze in its simplest form, straight or on ice. It’s a trick that I use when I go out with friends when I am not looking to get crazy. I’ll order a whiskey neat or on the rocks and just sip on it slowly. Whether or not you have a particular liquor of choice that’s not the point, the point is that it is hard to swig back, at least for most people, it almost forces you to drink slowly. It also forces you to enjoy the booze more and because your only having a couple instead of going ham you can splurge a little more and get something top-shelf that’s worth enjoying slowly.

  1. Tread carefully with that which is made with grapes

This doesn’t only concern wine, there are many other liquors out there that are made by distilling grapes, but wine is the one to especially watch out for. Wine obviously does have sugar in it, but in some instances, it is a lot less than one would expect. If you’re going to keep it going with the vino there is a nice rule to keep in mind, the dryer the better. Dryer wines have a substantially lower sugar content than sweeter wines, obviously. And a word of advice, drink organically. What is especially nice about this is that most wines out of the old world, Europe, is that almost all of them are made organically. These organic and natural wines are defined by the terroir and the vintner, people don’t mess with the wine to change its profile instead it naturally tends to be more dry and tannic which is wonderful for those looking to cut out sugar. The other part that’s nice about this is that it almost forces you to get out of your comfort zone with wine and try new things, especially if you haven’t ventured into the old world yet.

  1. Avoid Beer

This is hard even for me because I love beer, however, on a diet it is a bit of a no no. Beer is a wonderful thing and there are few things more refreshing after a long day of work then to sit down and relax with a nice cold one. If you do, keep it to a minimum. Beers are the heaviest of all booze beverages, they may not be high in sugar content but they are high in carbs and calories. At the same time, be mindful of light beers, suds like Bud Light and Coors Light have high-fructose corn syrup in them, the same nasty flavoring syrup in sodas. HFCS is worse than regular sugar because its processed sugar, it aint natural and your body has a hard time digesting it. So, avoid that all all costs, you can find comprehensives lists of the bad beers online.

Six Wines to Love That Will Get You Out of Your Comfort Zone

When I first fell in love with wine it was a pinot noir from the central coast of California, Rusack Winery in Santa Ynez Valley. It was unlike anything I have ever tasted. I used to hate wine, it was too sweet, and I like most boys at the ripe drinking age of 22 was drinking beer, whiskey, and tequila. I barely exposed myself to wine before this. I had my preconceived notions about wine and I tended to stick to my cabernet sauvignon. And yet, this Rusack pinot changed my entire perspective. It opened a world into good, enjoyable wine and now I see that every wine is a new adventure and something new to experience. I became obsessed with finding new wines to try and change my alter my perception further. One of these was the Italian grape Barbera, another wine that thoroughly surprised me, catapulting itself to the top of my favorites list. We all remember the wine that made us fall in love with wine, it may have been chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, rose, or even Riesling. However, I have found with most of my friends and family, that once they fall in love with one type of wine that’s all they’ll ever drink. I will say there is no problem with that, people like their comfort zones especially when it comes to booze. Yet, there are over a thousand different grape varietals in this world just waiting for us to try them. Why limit yourself to just a small few? Here are some suggestions that will help get you out of your comfort zone:

  1. Alsatian (Alsace) Riesling –

Alsace is a region famous for this particular grape. It sits in the northeastern part of France adjacent to the borders of Germany and Switzerland. A nice cool mountainous climate with beautiful rivers and streams, a perfect place for good wine. The Riesling that comes out of this area is unlike any other you’ve had I can assure you. One of the biggest misconceptions with Riesling is that it is sweet and syrupy, often too sweet for people, hence why people don’t like it or say they don’t. But they have never had an Alsatian Riesling, for this is how Riesling is supposed to taste. It is light and crispy with notes of ripe green apples and apricots, and it tends to be extremely dry. This food with a nice buttery fish like seabass or cod will change your life. Like a good French rose, this wine is perfect for a hot summers day with good seafood. This wine can be hard to find in stores sometimes, however, there are other options if you can’t find it. Try German or Austrian Rieslings, make sure they say, “Off Dry” on the label, these wines will be very reminiscent of the Alsatian stuff.

  1. Albarino –

Keeping the theme going with dry whites, Albarino is a lovely example of that originates from Spain. This is one that is naturally produced dry and crisp. I have had Albarinos from Napa Valley that are slightly more fruit forward but are still reminiscent of the original. Albarino to me has very similar qualities to a good Sauvignon Blanc, except with more of a stone fruit (ripe green apples and pears) profile to it with a nice and dry finish. This wine is also phenomenal with fresh fish and fried foods (oddly enough, but just try it), while at the same time being very easy to drink on its own, almost too easy. This one is slightly easier to find in stores than the dry Rieslings and is typically at a very approachable price.

  1. Muscat –

Muscat is a very unique grape, it is one of the oldest grape varietals out there and has been widely grown all over Europe for centuries. The origin of this grape is still unknown, but it has been discovered that the Ancient Greeks and Egyptians drank this juice. Enough fun history, let’s talk about this grape. Moscato and Muscat are actually the same grape, one’s Italian and the other is French. Muscat is an interesting grape because it can produce such unique profiles from sweet and bubbly to light and dry. The sweeter ones produce an aroma and profile that makes you think of peaches and apricots, whereas, the drier Muscats have a profile of melon, honeydew, and more tropical flavors with that nice and dry finish. Not everyone will love this wine, but it will definitely share its unique profile and perspective to those curious enough to try it, and they will find that it was worth it.

  1. Gamay –

This is one of my new favorite wines because of just how unique it is. The simplest way to describe it is like a drier pinot noir, but then the profile isn’t at all the same. Like pinot, it’s a lighter red wine. Instead Gamay is not a full-bodied but a nice cherry and prune fruit profile with a dry, earthy finish.  This grape originally was developed as a blending grape because of its color and dryness but is slowly making its mark in the wine world as somms and wine experts a like recommend it. It’s great with white meats and even better with gamier meats like lamb or venison.

  1. Barbera –

Barbera is another fantastic red wine that few people think about, and yet it is wine of the most widely planted Italian varietals out there. Some of these vines are over a century old out in the Piedmont region of northern Italy, this area produces the Barbera d’asti, which for those who know Barbera know this style. The profile of this wine is very similar to that of Gamay but with a fuller body and more berry notes, but it does retain the dryness and earthiness that old world wines are so famous for. It is another one of those grapes with a long history but has only recently been noticed in the wide-world of wine. Some California producers have done a wonderful job of reproducing this wine, however I have yet to see some of them in stores as the consumers have yet to explore this beauty. If you find it, buy it, it will not disappoint.

  1. Cabernet Franc –

Now this is a grape that almost everyone that has had a red blend has had in some shape or form. However, few have had it in its purist form well at least not being blended into Bordeaux or Bordeaux style blends. On it’s on it produces a different profile than what to expect. It is typically a more medium bodied wine but can find itself a little fuller sometimes. It is not overly tannic and heavily structured, instead it is more earthy and acidic. Its profile is that of black cherries, raspberries, bell peppers, and jalapenos. For me the uniqueness comes from its spice mixed with a slightly fuller berry style fruit component. This wine is often shadowed by the bigger cabernet sauvignon, but should never be ruled out. Napa Valley has produced some wonderful Cab Francs, so has Oregon, Washington, Australia and New Zealand. However, the classic Cab Franc style comes from its home in France. This wine is great for the holidays when we all have that wonderful buffet of food waiting for us.



There’s Something About Agave

It’s that time of the year again! Tequila time! As always we start the margarita season with Cinco de Mayo. From what it seems, tequila is a love it or hate it sort of drink. Everyone has said either “I love tequila! I always have a good time” or “man, I hate tequila, I just can’t drink it, too many bad times.” We have all been there. One thing I’ve learned is that the type of tequila you drink can make all the difference.


Tequila Time!

It’s that time of the year again! Tequila time! As always we start the margarita season with Cinco de Mayo. From what it seems, tequila is a love it or hate it sort of drink. Everyone has said either “I love tequila! I always have a good time” or “man, I hate tequila, I just can’t drink it, too many bad times.” We have all been there. One thing I’ve learned is that the type of tequila you drink can make all the difference.


IPA – Increasingly Popular Ale

One of the best things about living in San Diego, CA is all the local craft beers that are coming out of this sunny city. The rise began as Stone, Ballast Point, AleSmith and Karl Strauss started to get national recognition not too long ago. Now San Diego is home to over 100 breweries, and that number continues to grow.


Ode to Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir, oh pinot noir, how much I love thee. A lot. I have to say that of all the hundreds of different red wine varieties out there, pinot noir is one of my all-time favorites. It’s not just because of its elegance and it being one of the most romanticized wines out there, it’s because of its versatility. Pinot noir is a pain in the ass to grow, but when done right, boy oh boy, is it a beautiful thing. I have had the privilege of enjoying a myriad of different pinots and almost every one of them has had its own unique profile. I have had pinots that are grown right across the street from one another and each tasted completely different. It’s a wine that can be described as fruity, earthy, acidic, floral, austere, dry, light, full-bodied, effeminate, minerally, aromatic, etc. There is a pinot for every category of style. It is also one among a very small number of red wines that can pair well with just about everything from fish to meats to sweets. It’s the perfect wine to bring to a dinner party, for a date, for sipping, for chugging, for any occasion. I simply love pinot.


Let’s talk Scotch

“I love scotch. Scotch, scotch, scotch. Here it goes down, down into my belly. Mhm, mhm, mhm.” Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) so eloquently puts it. If you’re a avid scotch drinker then you share Mr. Burgundy’s ode to scotch and I am quite sure you’ve said it yourself. It does feel good to drink. It’s a mustache growing, chest hair making, and deep voice creating glass of awesomeness. Scotch is one that many say they like to enjoy but few can really handle. When I say few can really handle it, I mean few can actually understand, truly appreciate, and enjoy the uniqueness that is Scotland’s drinking water (not really). As pretentious as that sounds there is some truth to that. If the Scotts knew you were adding coke, soda water or anything other than a single drop of water to their fine creations they’d send Ron Swanson over to smash a canoe over your head. For those of you that know Ron Swanson you’d know that after smashing the canoe over thine noggin he’d then pour you a glass of Lagavulin and show you how to enjoy it, properly. It doesn’t take a genius to decipher that Scotch comes from Scotland and for those just now realizing this, I am sorry but yes, yes it does. Scotch whisky is to Scotland is like wine is to France, it has been made by master distillers the same way for generations upon generations; and man do they know what they are doing. Unlike American, Canadian and other whiskys around the world that can use multiple different grains to make different styles of whisky, scotch is limited to only barley. Scotch has made for some legends of whisky, master distillers that provide some of the best craftsmanship in the world. I have never had the privilege to walk in and tour one of the cellars of these legendary distilleries such as Macallan, Lagavulin, Glenfiddich or Glenmorangie. And these four distilleries are just a fraction of a fraction of over a thousand different distilleries throughout Scotland, each of which provides a unique perspective, experience, and story into their scotch.


5 Myths About Wine

We find ourselves at the grocery story analyzing bottles, looking for the coolest label, the oldest vintage, or some of us don’t care what-so-ever and just pick the cheapest one we can find. All of this comes down to the marketing, which means everything. There are a myriad of differences in the wine world that define or signify good wine, most of which come from the vintner (wine maker) or the wineries themselves. Each winery has a different story of how they do things and why they are better than everyone else. Myths in wine have risen out of the creative marketing and the stories each winery will tell about their product, but others come straight out of the bottle. There are a series of misnomers and rather dimwitted myths out there that can lead people to the wrong conclusions about wine and wine knowledge in general.