Summertime, and the Livin’ Is N/A

by Tashi

This past weekend I went camping at a music festival and brought along an entire mocktail bar set up to share with fellow attendees.  I learned a lot about what people are looking for in their N/A options, and came up with some fun and creative recipes I’m going to share with you!  My mocktail bar was a huge hit and I am going to continue to do this for other festivals and camping trips I have planned this year.  I truly believe in the importance of offering NA options at festivals, events, and bars and hope this endeavor brought about more awareness about the need to offer non-alcoholic options to truly be an inclusive space.

I got this idea after seeing store reports recently when we discovered that our non-alcoholic sales have doubled in the past year!  This means more and more customers are either going alcohol free or choosing more non-alcoholic options to cut back on their alcohol intake, and we are here for it!  I’m taking a break from alcohol myself as well, but don’t worry, I’m still tasting our products and can lead you around the liquor aisles no problem.  Sometimes we just need a break to reset and that’s okay!  I’ve been working hard to research new N/A products to carry, and we will be offering some new and exciting options soon.  In the meantime, I’ve remixed the non-alcoholic sampler kit with different products that will satisfy those summertime vibes.  This box will be perfect to bring to your next campfire or BBQ, and of course includes two of each product so you can share with friends.

First we had to have some summer beers.  I’m super excited to have my favorite N/A beer in this kit, Untitled Art’s Florida Weisse – an N/A sour beer that will not disappoint!  We also added Athletic Brewing’s Upside Dawn, a light golden ale easy for drinking.  We’re still obsessed with Töst so we included their other flavor, which is made with white tea, white cranberry, and ginger.  Lyre’s in one of the newest additions to the N/A liquor section that I am absolutely obsessed with so I had to include their Dark ‘N Spicy premixed drink.  Their take on a dark and stormy made with two of their non-alcoholic rums, ginger beer, and lime zest.  This is absolutely delicious and my fridge has been stocked with them since we brought them in!  To round out the kit we’ve included Raspberry Superior Switchel.  Switchel is an apple cider vinegar based drink that’s carbonated, good for your tummy, and incredibly refreshing.  Switchel also makes for a good mixer if you’re not totally alcohol free.  I think you’ll really enjoy the summer remix sampler kit, and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for new products in our N/A section over the next few months!

Lastly, as promised, I want to share some of my personal creations for you to use as inspiration over the summer.  These were huge hits at my mocktail bar.  Cheers!

LITTLE HOPPY SHRUB

1 bottle Lagunitas Hoppy Refresher

1 oz Sharab Shrub of your choice

Fill your cup with Hoppy Refresher and add your favorite flavor of Sharab Shrub to taste.  I personally love making this with their Blueberry Poblano or Raspberry flavor.

 

MOCKTAIL MAVEN ORIGINAL

Coconut Aloe Vera Juice

Cranberry Juice

Tonic Water or Club Soda

Put ice in a cup and fill halfway with Coconut Aloe Vera Juice, a fourth with cranberry juice, and top with your choice of tonic water or club soda.  Use this recipe to play around with your favorite juices and flavor combos to come up with a sparkling mocktail of your own!

Trending Now: Enlightened Drinking (And Eating)

by Karina

Disclaimer: This op-ed piece is not about the political correctness of which glassware to use for various types of wine or occasions. The subject of glassware is merely meant to illustrate various attitudes toward the wine world as a whole. 

We’re ruled by fashion. The wine world is just as caught up in it as any other industry. From the color and style of wine we choose to the vessel we drink it out of (to even choosing to drink wine at all), the pendulum is in constant motion from trend to trend. 

Punch Drink Magazine recently put out an article about the rise of the “tavern glass” as opposed to drinking out of fancy, hifalutin (and breakable) Riedel wine stems. My first thought is, “Absolutely.” Spend more time with the wine in your mouth instead of looking at it through expensive crystal. We have no time for the gatekeepers and the rule makers of the wine world who try to sell wine as a status symbol. Wine to me is communal—a catalyst in bringing people together, in a similar (but not identical) way that food does. Wine nourishes; it is not supposed to be exploited and twisted and manipulated just to suit a bank account somewhere.  

But then I consider my role as a wine educator. If wine, glassware, and the general attitude toward wine are all crashing down off their lofted pedestals, will wine education also get the hook offstage? If the world is trending toward a “don’t think, just drink” mantra, is there any sense in learning about maximum vineyard yields, or soil types, or cold soaking, or century-old barrels that outlive the winemaker who uses them? Drink, be merry, and… don’t think too much? 

And yet, I think that perhaps the pendulum isn’t exactly swinging back the way it came—back to the weird post-Prohibition era when all we drank was Thunderbird and Carlo Rossi Hearty Burgundy, which gave way to all the obscene flavors and colors of Boone’s Farm.  

I think the pendulum might be finding a third path. Much of the wine world has fallen head-over-heels for things like natural wine and orange wine. We haven’t stopped questioning what went into our wine, who made it, where it came from. We shell out on a new pét nat without blinking an eye, or for the latest Martha Stoumen, or on a Teroldego we’ve been pining after. Institutions like WSET are seeing all-time highs in enrollment numbers around the world for those wanting formalized wine education.  

I love that we’re headed for educated, thoughtful drinking out of Mason jars. But I also love that you spent $90 on a single Zalto glass. If you’ve found pleasure in it, then it was worth it. I love that all your glassware was dirty, so you just drank from the bottle. I love that all your glassware was clean, but you drank from the bottle anyways. 

But most of all, I love that you had your wine atlas open as you drank. I love that you did a bottle share with your work friends and you talked about what you were smelling, tasting, experiencing. I love that you didn’t care about using the “right” wine lingo (is there such a thing?) because you were too invested in experiencing the wine on your own terms. I love that someone brought Heggie’s pizza, someone else brought pork rillettes, and you brought a bag of Doritos to dip in Raclette fondue. I love all of that. 

Wine education is not supposed to be a tool to wield power over others. Just like we do with so much of Nature, humans have squeezed this simple agricultural product into a mysterious, intimidating, intangible thing meant only for certain classes of society. But in the meantime, we also stumbled unwittingly into art, cultural intricacies, history, lore and legends, geological fascinations, and all the complexities Nature lays out for us to discover. 

If the pendulum is swinging, I’m hopeful that it’s pioneering a new direction. This “enlightened drinking for the masses” trend is fascinating, joyful, and so powerfully rewarding. Fill up that red Solo cup, grab your Chex Mix, and crack that nerdy reference book open. Drink with joyful curiosity, and don’t let anybody tell you you’re doing it wrong. 

If you’ve made it this far down the enlightened drinking path, here’s your reward: keep an eye out for exciting things happening in June. If you’ve been to France 44 in the last month or so, you’ll know that we’ve got major construction happening as we build our new Event Space. But in the meantime, we’re bringing our public classes and events out into the world! Subscribe to our Dojour page and you’ll be the first to know what’s on the horizon. 

And don’t forget the cheese. If the wine world thinks it’s hot stuff with all their certifications and pins, it could maybe learn a thing or two from the cheese world. Cheese pros are fanatic. Instead of competing for the most pieces of paper or most letters behind their names, cheese pros are all about relationships and connections (and delightfully bizarre competitions). It’s pretty amazing that we’re able to offer experiences at France 44 like deep-dive classes into funky washed rind cheeses, artisan English cheddars, or meet people like Andy Hatch of Pleasant Ridge or David Lockwood of Neal’s Yard Dairy, right here in Minneapolis. 

The 10th Annual DZTE Cheese Tasting & Silent Auction will be held Sunday, May 10 from 6-8pm.

The Daphne Zepos Teaching Endowment is an incredible non-profit we’re throwing a fundraiser for in a couple weeks. Daphne passed away in 2012, but she was nothing short of a zealot who spread the gospel of cheese everywhere she went, creating thousands of passionate cheese disciples throughout her many years of teaching and selling cheese. Our own France 44 Cheese Shop probably would not exist without her influence, and it’s because of her legacy that the DZTE sets up cheese professionals with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to travel, learn, study, and bring back knowledge to share with the rest of the cheese-crazy world. 

And if you’ve made it this far down this rabbit hole of a blog, you have no choice but to buy a ticket to the Wine & Cheese Tasting event we’re throwing in support of DZTE. You owe it to a future of learning about and eating delicious, unique, incredible cheese. 

 

Glühwein, Gløgg, Wassail… Cold Weather’s Best Beverage

Despite having been born and raised in Minnesota, I’m a baby when the cold weather hits. It’s not an unusual sight to see me in a turtleneck with a sweater on top (I’ve even been known to layer my jackets…), and I’m a big fan of long johns and wool socks this time of year. No matter how many layers I pile on, though, there’s nothing quite as warming as a steamy mug of mulled wine – and if you’ve ever wandered the Christmas Markets of Europe or elsewhere, you know this to be true.

Mulled wine has been around pretty much as long as wine has, which is to say, almost forever. It started out as a way to avoid waste – Romans and Greeks were recorded as early at the 2nd century for adding spices to bad batches of wine in order to make them more palatable, and in the cooler months, heating it up as a way to keep warm. As the Romans spread and conquered, they brought with them “Conditum Paradoxum,” a mixture of wine, honey, pepper, bay leaf, saffron, and dates.

By the Middle Ages, it had become a wildly popular beverage for two reasons: one, most of the water wasn’t potable, so people were drinking beer and wine in its place. Two, spiced wine was believed to promote health and avoid illness (a big concern in the wake of the Black Plague, rela). Even royalty was known to enjoy a hot cup of wine or two, with King Henry III of England, Count John IV of Germany, and King Gustav I of Sweden all citing it as one of their favorites. When Christmas Markets popped up in the late 1800’s, mulled wine morphed from the more bitter recipes of the past into the warm, spicy ones we know and love now and quickly became a staple. Today, booths at the markets continue to offer their own distinct recipes.

While the most recognized recipes are a blend of red wine, brandy, cinnamon, citrus, and sugar, recipes are pretty variable depending on where you are, with the types of spices, bases, and fortifying spirits changing depending on culture. In Alsace, white wine (usually Riesling or Pinot Blanc) is swapped for red wine, and star aniseed is a key spice. In Scandinavia, vodka, gin, or akvavit are often used in place of brandy, and cardamom joins the spice blend. In Poland, hot beer is used instead of wine. All to say, it’s a pretty forgiving beverage, so as you make your own mulled wine (or beer, or cider!), you can play with the recipe as much or as little as you want to make it your own.

As far as the spices go, we did the work for you and put together a mulled wine kit (wine sold separately) to help get you through the impending doom that is winter in Minnesota. Each kit contains three sachets of our house spice blend, plus a tried-and-true recipe card to make a traditional batch of glühwein. What you use to fortify is entirely up to you, but might we suggest a liter bottle of Gulp Hablo Garnacha to get the base going?

France 44’s Mulled Wine

1. Place mulled wine sachet into a medium sized pot with 1 liter of red wine and ½ cup of brown sugar.

2. Using a sharp knife or peeler, peel half of one orange and half of one lemon, avoiding as much of the white pith as possible. Place in pot.

3. Juice 1 orange and add to pot.

4. Overmedium heat, warm the mixture, stirring until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid is just steaming, then reduce to a low simmer. Continue heating for 30 minutes, allowing spices to infuse.

5. Stir in 1 cup of spirit of choice, or 2 cups of tawny port.

6. Strain, garnish with orange wheel and/or cinnamon stick, and serve in heat-proof mugs or teacups. 

Yields 6-8 servings.  

*For a more or less sweet mulled wine, simply adjust the amount of sugar added accordingly. Sub agave or honey for an alternative sweetener. 

 

Hold My Milk, Bro: A Dairy-Free Cocktail Guide

by Tashi Johns

No matter your reason for cutting back or ditching dairy, here are some fun cocktail ideas to keep you warm and fuzzy all winter long.  I’ve included remakes of traditional cocktails with my personal recommendations for dairy free alternatives, plus some new festive cocktails to try!  Trust me, you don’t have to feel like you’re missing out, dairy free alternatives have come a long way and the possibilities are endless.

 
Let’s start with some classics…
 

Baileys Almande Almondmilk Liqueur

Irish Coffee

2 oz Bailey’s Almande Liqueur

1 oz Two Stacks Irish Whiskey

6 oz fresh coffee

Grab an oversized mug and combine all ingredients.

 

 

 

 

  

The Minneapolis Dude

2 oz Du Nord Coffee Liqueur

½ oz Vikre Lake Superior Vodka

Vanilla oat milk (I recommend Oatly)

Fill a low ball glass with ice, add coffee liqueur and vodka, top with vanilla oat milk.

 

 

 

 

 

Eggnog Martini

1 oz Wheatley Vodka

1 oz Dapper Barons Amaretto

1 oz Vegan Eggnog (I recommend Silk)

In a cocktail shaker, add the eggnog, vodka, and amaretto. Add 1 cup ice, shake, and strain into a martini glass.  Garnish with fresh nutmeg and dark chocolate shavings.

 
 

 

 

Other Festive Cocktails…
 

Old Overholt 114 Proof

Orange Chai Whiskey

1 oz Old Overholt 114

1 oz fresh squeezed orange juice

8 oz vanilla almond milk (I recommend Califia Farms)

1 Chai Tea bag

Heat almond milk in a small saucepan, but do not boil. Remove from heat and steep chai tea bag for 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile, pour whiskey and orange juice into an oversized mug. When tea is steeped, remove the tea bag. Pour almond chai over whiskey and orange juice.  Stir well and top with a tiny dash of cinnamon. Garnish with an orange slice and a cinnamon stick.

 

 

Christian Bros Sacred Bond BrandyBrandy Milk Punch

2 oz Sacred Bond Brandy

1.5 oz plain soy milk (I recommend Silk)

1 oz Prohibition Simple Syrup

½ vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, fill with ice, and shake until outside of the shaker is frosty (about 30 seconds). Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice and garnish with fresh grated nutmeg.

 

 

 

 

…Plus a Bonus (vegan!) Hack

Amaretto Sour

2 oz Disaronno*

1 oz lemon juice

¼ oz Prohibition Simple Syrup

2 tbsp aquafaba (the juice from a can of chickpeas!)

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker and add ice. Shake vigorously for at least a minute or two so that aquafaba produces foam. Strain into a glass and serve immediately with a garnish of lemon twist and a cherry (we recommend Muddle Me Bourbon Cherries).

*You can use any amaretto you like for these recipes.  I have listed Dapper Barons and Disaronno in these recipes for those who are avoiding animal products entirely.  They are both vegan friendly!

Rick

Wine & Proprietor