Inspiration for your Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving 2021 is shaping up to be one for the record books. There’s nary a turkey to be found this side of the Mississippi. Sweet potatoes are flying out grocery store doors faster than they can be stocked. And if you haven’t reserved your France 44 Cheese Shop Pumpkin Pie by now, you might be relegated to eating pumpkin puree by the spoonful right out of the can instead.

But one thing that won’t be hard is choosing which libations to pair with your holiday feast. Whether you’re planning for two or 20, the France 44 staff will help you choose the perfect Thanksgiving beverage lineup. From appetizer aperitifs to pumpkin pie potables and everything in between, we’re sharing what we’re bringing to our own tables in hopes of bringing some inspiration to yours. (If you want the fast and dirty shopping list, just scroll to the bottom.) Happy Thanksgiving!

____________________________________________________________________

 

Flora Prosecco | $15.99 | “My favorite way to start Thanksgiving is with mimosas! Flora Prosecco has become my favorite go-to. Try it with pomegranate or cranberry juice for a festive twist. It also tastes great without juice. That gives it the dual function of mimosas and bubbles to have with dessert!” – Melissa

Leffe Blonde | $8.99/6pk | “The flagship of Leffe, it’s smooth and fruity with a spicy aftertaste! At 6.6% it’s an excellent beer for any dish and relaxing moments with family and friends.” – Kayla

Gail ‘Doris’ Red Blend | $24.99 | “Loving this wine right now and probably will forever. This vintage has a high percentage of Zinfandel accompanied by about 15% of a variety of other grapes. Classic field blend. The Zin isn’t uber jamtastic, and that may be why I’d drink this with any holiday fare. Ripe raspberry, strawberry preserve, and a skosh of pepper round out the palate. Simply stunning.” – Dustin

Paul Nicolle Vieilles Vignes Chablis | $29.99 | “Good Chablis is what I’m bringing to Thanksgiving this year. There are few better pairing wines than a crisp, minerally Chablis, and the small Paul Nicolle domaine is at the top of the game. It is full-bodied enough to stand up to the bigger flavors on your Thanksgiving table, but that laser-sharp acidity also cuts through the salty and savory flavors in your stuffing, turkey, gravy, potatoes… (excuse me, I accidentally drooled on the keyboard).”  – Karina

Arnot-Roberts Trousseau | $34.99 |My current favorite ‘close my eyes wine’ – a wine so good you have to close your eyes and give it your full attention. The whisper-quiet honeyed red fruit flavors provide a refreshing counterpoint to the commotion of the holidays. Drink this one on its own (preferably on your own) when you need a break from the loud flavors (and personalities) of the Thanksgiving dinner table.” – Ryan

Peter Lauer Riesling ‘No. 25’ Trocken | $29.99 | “It’ll come as no surprise to anyone who reads our blog that I’ll be drinking German Riesling at my Thanksgiving celebration this year. My pick is focused, zingy and bone dry. The winemaker, Florian Lauer, has made is his life’s work to preserve the historic vineyard names of the Kupp area within the Mosel region of Germany. You’ll find it to be the perfect aperitif wine for your cheese board and shrimp cocktail.” – Amy

Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel | $23.99 | “Thanksgiving is one of the most gluttonous meals of the year, and I have no idea why people pair this wonderful feast with delicate, lightweight wines. Try a Sonoma County Zinfandel at the dinner table this year, especially if you’re smoking the turkey. Silky, rich berry fruit–low tannins–spicy kick–absolutely delicious. It’s a perfect match. ‘Merica!” – Bill

Shacksbury Cider Variety Pack I $21.99 I “I am in love this this variety pack from one of my current favorite cider producers. The pack has 4 cans of each of the following: Shacksbury Dry Cider, The Vermonter (a delicious gin-like dry cider), and the Shacksbury Rosé (aged with red wine grapes). There really is just something about fall weather and fall food that screams for a delicious ice-cold cider. The variety pack is the perfect way to make sure there is a style everyone will like at your Thanksgiving.” – Josh

St. Agrestis Amaro | $39.99 | “I really enjoy this on its own! The bitter/herbal start really meshes well with the cinnamon and sarsaparilla on the finish. Makes me think of the holidays – and at 30% ABV, it’ll keep ya warm too!” – Stephen

Bowman Brothers Small Batch Bourbon | $32.99 | “I’m currently in love with the small batch Bowman Brothers bourbon. Its bright notes of cinnamon and gingerbread pair perfectly with my favorite vermouth to make a lovely Manhattan. It’s definitely something I look forward to making for my family during the holidays.” – Aaron 

Ezra Brooks Cream Liqueur | $14.99 | “After the Thanksgiving rush, I feel quite beat. We sell gobs of cream liqueur this time of year and I’m going to treat myself to some Ezra Brooks Cream Liqueur in some coffee after my morning run… that I’m not going to take. It’s every bit as good as the best cream liqueur at half the price. I may even make myself an evening bourbon cream milkshake for dessert because I’m worth it!” – Tom

Schneider Weisse Aventinus Weizen Doppelbock I $5.99/500ml I “When it comes to pairing beers with Thanksgiving dinner, I prefer something with yeast-driven flavors, some alcohol warmth and fine carbonation. While most beers that fit this mold come from Belgium, some good options can also be found from Germany. Schneider Aventinus is one of my favorite food- (and cheese!) pairing beers. Sophisticated yet perfectly balanced with notes of plum, fig, clove, banana bread, cola and caramelized malt. The finish is warming with a prickly tingle of carbonation. Try it with L’Amuse Brabander goat gouda for a heavenly pairing.” – Bennett

Hamm’s Beer | $17.99/30pk | “What’s the best pairing with Turkey? Ham(m’s). The magical elixir from the land of the sky blue waters, Hamm’s. It tastes like beer and I like it.” – Rob

 

 

 

____________________________________________________________________

 

TL;DR VERSION

 

PRE-DINNER/ALL-DAY DRINKS

Flora Prosecco | $15.99

Hamm’s Beer | $17.99/30pk

 

DURING DINNER DRINKS

Peter Lauer Riesling ‘No. 25’ Trocken | $29.99

Paul Nicolle Chablis | $29.99

Gail ‘Doris’ Red Blend | $24.99

Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel | $23.99

Arnot-Roberts Trousseau | $34.99

Leffe Blonde | $8.99/6pk

 

AFTER DINNER DRINKS

St. Agrestis Amaro | $39.99

Bowman Brothers Small Batch Bourbon | $32.99

Ezra Brooks Cream Liqueur | $14.99

 

 

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!

October Cocktail Feature: Spooooooky Cocktails!

Week One 

For October we will be focusing on spoooooky cocktails for all your Halloween shenanigans.  Some might push you to try something a little more complicated, but don’t be scared!  They will be worth the work.  And some will be perfect to share with friends at your next séance or ghoul gathering.  Let those skeletons out of your closet, it’s time to party!

Violet Delights 

Fill a highball glass with ice, add grenadine, lemon juice, gin, top with soda water and a cocktail cherry.


 

Week Two 

We’re going to revisit that bottle of mezcal this week for a spooky smoky cocktail.  This one is a little extra work but will be worth it!  For an extra witchy vibe, repeat a mantra or set some good intentions while you muddle your ingredients.  Or hex someone, we won’t tell.

Kitchen Witch Smash 

In a mixing glass, add blackberries, rosemary, lemon juice and agave nectar. Muddle the ingredients together, squishing everything to release the juices.  Add ice, along with the mezcal and orange bitters.  Stir for 20 seconds and strain over ice into a mason jar. Top with club soda and garnish with fresh rosemary and blackberries.

 


 

Week Three

By now you probably have some apple cider sitting in the fridge ready for a new spin.  Here’s a fun fall take on the classic sidecar.  If you’re feeling adventurous, try this warm during your next chilly evening by the fire.   Or if you’re feeling lazy, simply warm up the apple cider, add cognac, and top with whipped cream for an easy treat.

Phantom Vehicle

Add all liquid ingredients to a cocktail shaker, top with ice, and shake until the shaker starts to frost and feels very cold to the touch (20 to 30 seconds).  Strain into a coupe glass and top with zest and brandied cherries.

 


 

Week Four

Trick or treat!  What’s this new creature at your door?  It’s cachaca, a Brazilian liquor made from distilled sugarcane juice.  This cousin of rum is a little funky and earthy and makes for a great cocktail.  But don’t worry, after a few of these you’ll be the fun kind of zombie not the brain eating kind.

Cachaça Zombie 

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Rinse an oversized whiskey tumbler with absinthe, add crushed ice, and pour in your strained cocktail.  Garnish with a lime wedge and mint sprig.

 


 

EXTRA SPOOKY Week Five 

It’s Halloween weekend, time to get rowdy!  You probably still have some apple cider; we all make the same mistakes every fall, nobody is perfect.  So here’s a great recipe to share with your ghoul and goblin friends at your haunted gatherings.  Use up that cider and that dusty bottle of pinot grigio you never got to in the summer, and bring the shenanigans to the party!

Séance Sangria 

Combine all ingredients in a punch bowl, stir, and chill for one hour before serving.

Liquid Necromancy: Old Duff & The Resurrection of Genever

by Sam Weisberg

Gather round, all ye of hardy constitution and eccentric drinking habits! ‘Twas the week before Halloween when Sam wrote a blog post about Genever; that elusive spirit of cocktail-lore, long figured to be lost to history. It’s a tale of an ingredient coming back from the dead, the resurrection of the crown jewel of the Cocktail Renaissance.

Editor’s Note: We’re gonna be nerdy and go through some history here. If you want to just know what the stuff tastes like, skip to the bottom of the article, or come visit us at the store this weekend—we’ll be pouring Old Duff Genever on the tasting bar.

Prologue: Minnesota, 1867

It’s 1867 and you’ve had a long, hard day farming sugar beets in Winona. You head over to your local watering hole, and, perhaps being a somewhat well-to-do farmer, you treat yourself and ask the bartender for a “gin cocktail.”

What you receive in your chilled cocktail glass is not a Martini. It’s not a gin-and-tonic, and, smelling it, it’s not even particularly piney or juniper-forward. You take a sip of the light-amber hued concoction… what you taste is not unlike an Old-Fashioned; there’s definitely sugar, definitely some sort of cocktail bitters, but that base spirit… it ain’t gin.

And that’s because it wasn’t gin. Or, at least, not what we’d consider gin today. The spirit—which you can see advertised here in the Winona Weekly Republican was called “Holland gin”—or, as they called it in Holland, genever.

brown windmill on green grass field under blue sky during daytime

The Long Road to Gin

Genever is old. Really old. Descended from medicinal juniper tonics that were being produced as early as 1269 CE, genever has been taxed as a recreational spirit in Holland since 1497! It is the parent spirit of both whiskey and gin, a fact that quickly becomes apparent after your first sip. Malty and rich, yet lightly flavored , genever is like the love-child of single malt scotch and English gin.

The earliest Irish whiskey recipes, dating from 1611, were for unaged, well-crafted grain distillate with a teensy amount of botanicals added for flavor, including juniper. That’s essentially a description of genever. The real stuff, what the Dutch would have called moutwijn, or, maltwine, is a distillate of grains (traditionally malted barley and rye—more on that in minute) with a small amount of juniper and hops (!) added for flavor.

That traditional style maltwine genever swept the (European-influenced) globe, at times becoming even more fashionable and expensive than Cognac. By the mid-1860s, genever was one of the world’s best-selling spirits—popular enough that it was even being shipped out to the fledgling Northwest Territory of the U.S., which would soon become Minnesota (see the 1855 ad above in the Winona Weekly Express).

clear drinking glass with brown liquid and green leaves

While Americans stuck to imported Dutch Genever (imports to New York in 1850 dwarfed English gin at a ratio of 450:1), the British attempted to make their own version of it. Unfortunately, British distillers couldn’t compete with the technique of the Dutch masters. To cover the harsher base spirit that many distillers produced, merchants would often sweeten the spirit with sugar and add additional juniper flavor. The resulting spirit is a poor facsimile of genever, but it became quite popular with the British public, who dropped the “-ever” and called it “gen,” which quickly transformed into “gin.”

That sweetened style of gin was known as “Old Tom” gin—and you can still purchase it today from a select few producers. For a time, true Dutch genever and Old Tom gin were interchangeable in the bartender’s arsenal, with the former taking the name “Hollands” in many recipe books. Up until Prohibition in the U.S., if you asked for gin in a bar, you’d probably be getting either genever or Old Tom.

It wasn’t until the invention of the column still in the early-1800s that anything resembling the “dry gin” we know now began to come onto the scene. The spirit produced by a column still was lighter and crisper than the malty, fuller-bodied stuff that came off the old-school pot stills used to make genever. Column-stills also produced spirits with fewer impurities, allowing producers to bottle it with less and less sugar to cover up “off” flavors.

Real Dutch genever began a slow decline in popularity due to the dual tragedies of American Prohibition and World War I, but after the devastation of World War II, Dutch producers had to decisively pivot away from it to survive. The techniques of genever production were labor-intensive and the raw materials were expensive. Sensing a changing marketplace and a need for fast cash, Dutch producers went all-in on liqueurs and vodka for their export markets. Some distillers continued producing a bit of genever for local tastes, but the marketplace had changed—today, only a dozen or so distilleries remain in Schiedam, the historic home of genever production—down from the industry’s peak of about 250 distilleries in its heyday.

clear cocktail glass with pink liquid inside

Enter the Duff

The revitalization of pre-Prohibition cocktail recipes and techniques that has swept the U.S. over the past twenty to thirty years has been called the “Cocktail Renaissance.” History buffs, academics, professional bartenders, and at-home tipplers have all contributed to a wealth of information that has allowed bars to slowly but surely shift drinking culture in the U.S. back towards spirit-forward cocktails with high-quality ingredients. In other words: Negronis are in, Sour Mix is out.

Key to this transition has been the resurrection of (formerly) archaic ingredients like absinthe, rye whiskey, vermouth, and, now, genever, which were called for frequently in pre-Prohibition cocktail recipes, but, until recently, were mostly unavailable in the United States. Enter Philip Duff, a cocktail soothsayer who was on a single-minded mission to bring back genever. And not just any genever, but a true, 100% Maltwine.

courtesy of the Old Duff Genever Distillery

See, genever production hadn’t exactly stopped cold in Holland following the post-WW2 market crash; a few Dutch producers like Bols had continued to keep it in their product lines. But the product they were making, sometimes called jonge genever or “young” genever,  was a column-still product that didn’t really resemble the old-school stuff. It was lighter in flavor, more juniper forward, and, critically, the base spirit was not the traditional moutwijn blend of malt and rye, but a neutral grain spirit—more like a vodka.

Philip Duff set out to rectify this. Approaching a historic distillery in Schiedam with a historic genever recipe in hand, he contracted them to produce Old Duff Genever: a true Dutch genever with the historic seal of Schiedam (they’ve got a seal for everything over there) on the bottle, certifying it as the real-deal thing.

What the Heck Does it Taste Like

Old Duff comes in two varieties:

The green bottle Old Duff Genever ($36.99) is a modern-style genever. 53% pot-still Maltwine, 46% column-still wheat distillate. The column-still spirit lends a lighter touch to this bottling, which, combined with a broader botanical base that includes juniper, citrus, coriander, star anise, and licorice, creates a sip that tastes like a fuller-bodied, maltier style of London Dry gin.

This is the stuff to pull out for a party. Make long drinks like a John Collins (John for jenever!) with it, or sub it out for gin in a cold-weather G&T. Bottled at 40% ABV, it’s meant as an approachable first sip into the world of genever.

Old Duff’s black-label, 100% Maltwine ($49.99) on the other hand, is the real-deal genever experience. This is what genever would have tasted like in the 1800s. Made from 2/3rds rye and 1/3rd malted barley, and flavored with only juniper and English bramling hops, this authentic moutwijn is the missing ingredient in dozens upon dozens of classic American cocktails. It’s the missing link between scotch and gin, the middle-ground when you don’t know if you want whiskey on the rocks or a Martini.

Mix yourself up a Martinez, the predecessor of the Martini, with Old Duff instead of gin and sit back in bliss. Or try an Improved Gin Cocktail—essentially a genever old-fashioned—and learn what contentment is. The stuff is magic, and its ability to bring lost cocktails back from the dead is truly a Halloween miracle.

Our friends at Libation Project will be mixing up genever cocktails on the bar this weekend at France 44. Swing by to have a little taste of history, and then pick up a bottle or two for yourself so you can take your own crack at a little liquid necromancy this Halloween season. Proost!

Soju vs. Shochu: What’s the Difference?

by Tom 

Soju is an often overlooked category in America. World wide, it hosts the world’s number one selling spirit brand (Jinro Soju) and makes up 97% of the clear spirit consumption in South Korea. It is a relatively low alcohol clear spirit made from different grains (rice, wheat or barley) and starches (potatoes or sweet potatoes) meant to be consumed chilled in a communal atmosphere usually accompanied by food, often spicy Korean barbeque. It can also be substituted into any martini, bloody mary, negroni, highball, or collins in lieu of another clear spirit for a lower alcohol option, as it usually sits between 12% and 30% alcohol instead of 40% plus here in the States. Consider it a lower alcohol, more viscous, slightly sweeter alternative to other clear spirits. There are very lax rules to soju from the alcohol percentages, additives, and flavorings.

Our soju:

  • The Classic: Jinro Soju. It is literally the best selling spirit brand in the world. Sip it chilled with family and friends. $12.99/750ML
  • The New Yorker: West 32 Soju. West 32 is an ode to New York’s Korea Town, and a good example of how far Soju can reach and how it can be made anywhere. $19.99/750ML

Soju’s cousin, Shochu, is quite the opposite. Their names are very similar, as the “so” and “sho” translate to burned, and the “ju” and “chu” translate to alcohol in Korean and Japanese respectively. These are distilled spirits, where sake is a fermented product, separating it entirely. Shochu is much stricter with its rules and regulations. It has a history dating back 500 years and has different appellations just like champagne and cognac. It is made with similar ferments, usually sweet potato, barley or rice. The big difference is purity, as no Shochu can have any additives and in the case of top shochu they can only be distilled once to show the purity of the distillate, designated as Honkaku. Shochu sits higher in alcohol than soju, usually between 25-35%.

Our shochu:

  • Mugi Hokka Honkaku Shochu. Made from Shooner barley and left to ferment for 17 whole days before a single distillation run in an atmospheric pot still in the Tensei Distillery in the Osaki Township in Kagoshima. If that’s not enough, they let it rest for five years in enamel tanks. Mugi Hokka shows notes of dark roasted coffee and dark chocolate. A perfect pairing for red meat, coffee and chocolate. $34.99/750ML

  • Colorful Honkaku Sweet Potato Shochu. Made from two different sweet potatoes fermented with two different Koji yeast strains by two different distillers! A very rare occurrence. Colorful is how they describe the nose and palate as it is flush with papaya, nectarines, great florality, and a soft vegetal smoke in the background. $52.99/750ML

Now for the hard part, where does soju and shochu go on the shelf? There is no right or wrong answer. We have created a shelf in between vodka and gin that houses spirits that fit a small category and definitely do not belong with liqueurs. Here you will find soju, shochu, aquavit, grappa, amongst other distillates. Go explore next time you’re in the shop!

September Spirit of the Month: Aquavit

Aquavit is a Scandinavian spirit that is traditionally flavored with ingredients such as caraway, cardamon, fennel, or dill.  You can easily substitute aquavit into your favorite whiskey, gin, or vodka drinks for a tasty new variation.  Through September we will feature some of our favorite aquavits and show you how versatile it can be!  Let’s leave the lutefisk to the Nordics and broaden our savory cocktail arsenal with that dusty bottle of aquavit instead.

Week 1:

Aquavit Mule, aka Dala Horse

In a copper mule mug filled with ice, combine:

Garnish with a lime wedge and a sprig of mint.


Week 2:  Local pairing 

Aquavit can also be enjoyed chilled or over ice. This week we recommend trying Skaalvenn Aquavit with Northern Lights Blue Cheese from the Cheese Shop.  Each batch of Northern Lights Blue is hand crafted in small batches with fresh ingredients and milk from local Brown Swiss cows who are allowed to graze on pasture all year long, which helps create a rich creamy texture and delicious flavor.  The cheese is aged for a minimum of four months, longer than most blue cheese, which adds to its creamy texture and peppery taste.  This cheese will pair nicely with Skaalvenn’s Aquavit, which is distilled from wheat and flavored with caraway, fennel, orange peel, and aged in oak barrels.


Week 3: Nordic Summer Cocktail 

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker and fill ¾ with ice, shake until chilled, strain, and serve with an orange twist.

 

 


 

 

Week 4: 

AkvaCran & Tonic 

Fill a tall glass with ice; add aquavit, cranberry juice, and lime juice; top with tonic water and garnish with a lime and sprig of mint. 

August Spirit of the Month: Mezcal

Each week for the month of August we’ll bring you a different cocktail recipe or food pairing featuring Mezcal (tequila’s smokier cousin). Mezcal comes from 9 different regions in Mexico, the most common being Oaxaca. Similar to tequila, it is distilled from the heart of the Agave plant. Unlike Tequila, any type of Agave can be used. It is also most commonly pit roasted prior to fermentation, giving the final product its distinct, smoky flavor. If you haven’t tried mezcal before, this might be just the nudge you need to get a bottle to experiment with!

Week 1:

Smoke on the Water
In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine:

Shake until well chilled and strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with a twist of orange peel.


Week 2:

Smoky Negroni 

In a mixing glass with ice, combine:

Stir until well chilled and strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel.


Week 3: Mezcal Food Pairing! 

This week we are going to pair mezcal with a fun snack from the Cheese Shop! We recommend trying Xicaru Silver Mezcal with Jamon Serrano and goat cheese (Order online HERE). Jamon Serrano is a dry cured Spanish ham sliced thin and one of the most iconic Spanish food products. While mezcal is from Mexico, the smokiness will highlight this meat well, and the goat cheese adds a nice creamy finish. Xicaru is available in 375 ML bottles so it’s a less intimidating purchase if you want to try mezcal for the first time. This is the perfect pairing to take along to a happy hour or picnic gathering to introduce your friends to the amazing world of mezcal (and the fun things you can find at our Cheese Shop)!


 

Week 4: The Final Week! 

This week we’re going to make the easiest cocktail pairing ever.  Last weekend at the cabin?  Quick pairing to wind down after a busy week?  We’ve got you covered.  This week’s mezcal is going into Summer Lakes Bootleg mix, which will create a very tasty twist on a mojito.  We recommend trying Derrumbes San Louis Potosi, which uses above ground roasting methods for a less smoky mezcal.  You’ll get hints of bell pepper, minerals, and a little funkiness that’s going to pair great with pimento dip and some crackers from the cheese shop.  Quickest shopping trip ever, and you’ve got an easy but delicious cocktail and snack covered for wherever life takes you.

New Changes to Online Shopping

By Melissa, Operations and Systems Queen (and Cider Specialist!)

Author Arnold Bennett was quoted as saying, “Any change, even a change for the better, is always accomplished by discomforts.” In the last 16 + months of trials with new sales systems and ordering platforms at France 44, we have all experienced exactly what he was saying 100 years ago.

Let me start by saying THANK YOU to all of you loyal customers who have stayed with us through all the changes that have occurred. Staffing, business hours, technology, and operations have all changed a lot. Some things have gone very well (curbside pickup, virtual classes) while others didn’t go well (new apps). Your feedback has been heard about all of it and we have been working hard to adjust and make things better across the board.

The biggest complaints came about ordering online. The new platform we have been using is great for somethings we do, but not for the online store. For the last several months, we have been redeveloping the online store for a better user experience. For those of you who use the online store, you will see a very different layout. We hope that you find it easier to find the products you are looking for.

As for a new app, we have not been able to find one that meets all our needs. We will continue to look but in the meantime, you can always ask someone at customer service to look up your past purchases and points.  If a time comes where the perfect app can be ours, we will let you know!

Once again, thank you for your patience as we navigated all the changes we experienced together. Know that the one thing we will never change is our commitment to providing the best customer service we have the ability to give. We continue to welcome feedback as we work to improve our systems and online shopping experiences. Cheers, and thank you!

Drinking With A Purpose: Part 2

by Tashi Johns

On this installment of “Drinking with Intention” we will explore our liquor aisles to find distilleries and businesses that are minority owned, or that have master distillers that fit the bill.  I decided to dive into all the amazing things that our local businesses are accomplishing first and then will take you through our liquor aisles to feature even more distilleries leading the way in creating diversity within the liquor industry. The fight for equality is a long one, and hopefully one day we won’t need to write blog features about minority owned and operated businesses.  They will be so common it will be normalized and not anything to note anymore. I hope we see this someday soon!  In the meantime, here are some amazing companies to check out next time you visit us.


MINNESOTA HELPING TO PAVE THE WAY

 

courtesy of crookedwaterspirits.com

Crooked Water – Minneapolis, MN | Heather Manley started Crooked Water in 2013, when there was only one distillery operating in Minnesota, after tasting a small batch spirit that really spoke to her.  This inspired her to make spirits that are approachable but with complex flavors.  She interviewed about a dozen distilleries from Wisconsin to the Dakotas and made a connection with Nick, the owner of Yahara Bay Distillery in Madison, WI and the rest is history!  With Heather’s background in food (she even owns her own seasoning company) and Nick’s distillery experience, Crooked Water was born.  Inspired by her favorite cask finished scotches, her first product was bourbon aged in sherry and port barrels which sold out immediately.  She then went on to create a gin and a vodka, and now has 13 products on the shelves.  Without investors to answer to, Heather is able to create products she wants to drink: high proof but approachable, high quality, and that honors her vision.  Heather also auctions off dinner parties at her house multiple times a year to raise funds for local nonprofits with missions of all kinds, raising over $100k to date.  She cooks everything herself and features Crooked Water cocktails and tastings!

I asked Heather how being a woman in the liquor industry has impacted her and she said it’s been an awesome experience and that being a woman helps her stand out.  She went on to add that it’s much more challenging to be a small craft business trying to find distribution partners and get her products out there.  She has done a great job though, with Crooked Water available in seven states!  Heather also informed me that everything Crooked Water needs is done in house, which is incredibly beneficial to it’s growth.  So far she hasn’t kept any profits and has reinvested everything back into her business.  Her partner Rhett creates the artwork (and has even won some awards for it), and with Heather concocting unique flavor profiles there’s not much more you need to stand out on the shelves.  It all speaks for itself.

You can find Crooked Water in our bourbon, whiskey, ready to drink cocktails, vodka, gin, and liqueur isles.  We recommend trying their Manley’s Old Fashioned.

courtesy of dunordcraftspirits.com

Du Nord – Minneapolis, MN | Yeah, okay, I’m obsessed with Du Nord and I’m not trying to hide it!  I’ve already featured the amazing things Chris Montana is doing in Drinking With A Purpose (part one), but I could not write about minority owned distilleries without giving them another shout out, especially considering Du Nord was the first black owned distillery in the US!  They also have a diverse cohort, including Maria K. who helps Chris lead their distillation team.

You can find Du Nord in our vodka, gin, whiskey, and liqueur isles. I (still) highly recommend trying their L’Etoile Vodka and Cafe Frieda Coffee Liqueur.

Lovejoy’s – Saint Paul, MN | Charles Lovejoy was bartending at the Happy Gnome in Saint Paul when he started running their bloody mary bar and making the mix from scratch.  Without telling patrons he had made it, he asked for feedback and was able to tweak his recipe to perfection and Lovejoy’s was born.  After bottling some of his mix for a gift basket auction to raise money for his mother’s nonprofit, he joined forces with his sister to create a business to sell it to a broader audience.  $2 of every bottle sold was donated to Family Place until it unfortunately had to close a couple of years ago.  Since then, Charles has partnered with other nonprofits helping homeless youth in the twin cities and now donates to Face to Face, Truth Center, and Connections to Independence.  I asked Charles how his hot sauce came to be, and he said he was never much of a hot sauce person but he had a regular that always complained his bloody mix was never hot enough so he decided he would make one to “burn his face off”, which was a huge hit!

courtesy of lovejoybrand.com

When asked to speak on being a black business owner, Charles said since he’s always been a black man he’s not sure how else any of this could have played out.  Every small business has its ups and downs but he has found an incredible community of entrepreneurs, artists, and people willing to help within the twin cities.  And of course, having representation matters.  He said that if anyone has ideas to start their own business that they should just go for it, and that they will find plenty of support here.

You can find Lovejoy’s in our mixer section.  They currently have the original bloody mix, a Thai basil mix, and hot sauce.  I recommend trying them all!  But especially the hot sauce if you’re looking for good flavor with deep heat.  (It’s my favorite, I put it on everything!  It’s also unofficially an amazing hangover cure, but you didn’t hear that from me.)

Vikre – Duluth, MN | Emily Vikre and her husband Joel felt the tug to return to Duluth after living on the East Coast but were unsure how they were going to make that happen.  Her parents had attended a spirits tasting and told them all you really need to make a quality spirit is good water and good grain, and their idea to move home and start a distillery to do just that was born.  They spent some time in Boston to learn more about the process, and six months later they were in Duluth making their new found dream a reality.  Emily has a background in cooking and wine and got to work developing the recipes for their first product, gin.  She felt that gin was the best way to represent the Northern Minnesota theme of the lake and forests.  She develops the flavor profiles and recipes for all their products, and works with their lead distiller Erin Otis to test small batches and perfect the product before it hits the shelves.  They use local rye and botanicals, most of which come from Food Farm, where they are also able to forage for the sumac and spruce tips for their gin!

courtesy of vikredistillery.com

Emily hasn’t noticed any barriers to being a woman in the liquor industry, but she has been intentional about building an inclusive production team where people feel comfortable.  And that makes a difference!  Vikre also partners with various organizations for fundraising endeavors.  Part of the proceeds from cocktails and cocktail kits sold in their tasting room go to charity, their current partner being Friends of the Boundary Waters to fundraise for their education and community outreach programs to make the Boundary Waters accessible to more communities.

You can find Vikre in our whiskey, vodka, aquavit, gin, liqueur, and ready to drink sections.  We recommend trying their Juniper Gin.

STILL THIRSTY?  DON’T WORRY, THERE’S MORE!


BOURBON AND WHISKEY

Brough Brothers – Louisville, KY | Brough Brothers is the first black owned bourbon distillery in Kentucky!  Founded by Victor, Bryson, and Chris Yarbrough; the three brothers came together to create real change in the neighborhood they grew up in and within the liquor industry.  They chose to build their distillery in their old neighborhood in Louisville to help with revitalization and to bring jobs to their community.  Bryson is also their master distiller, and the first black master distiller in Kentucky!  These brothers have certainly made a name for themselves already, and we’re excited to see where their endeavors will go next.

As a brand new distillery they only have one bourbon on the market right now, aptly named Brough Brothers.

Uncle Nearest – Nashville, TN  | The Uncle Nearest co-founder, CEO, and historian Fawn Weaver decided it was time to share the story of Nathan “Nearest” Green, the first ever black master distiller who taught Jack Daniels how to distill.  Once the Jack Daniels company finally acknowledged Green’s contribution to the spirit industry back in 2016, it was go time.  She partnered with Green’s great great granddaughter, Victoria Butler, who had just retired from the Department of Justice but came out of retirement to learn how to distill and became the first black female whiskey master blenderWith an all female leadership team to boot, Uncle Nearest is making headlines in the whiskey world.

We currently carry their 1856 Premium Aged Whiskey.

SCOTCH

Benriach, The GlenDronach, and Glenglassaugh – Scotland | Dr. Rachel Barrie is the master blender for all three distilleries, and is known as Scotland’s First Lady of Whisky.  She is also one of the few female master blenders in the world, and the first female to be inducted into Whisky Magazine’s prestigious “Hall of Fame”.  Her background in chemistry and love for whiskey has made her an incredible asset to the scotch world.

We recommend trying The GlenDronach 12 Year scotch.

TEQUILA

21 Seeds – San Francisco, CA | Kat Hantas wanted to turn tequila into something smooth, refreshing, and as approachable to drink as a glass of wine.  She started off by infusing tequila in mason jars in her kitchen, which she then started taking to parties and sharing with friends.  Her infusions were a huge hit so she partnered with her sister and best friend and they went to Mexico on the search for a tequila distillery and found one that was owned and predominantly staffed by women and 21 Seeds was born.  They even made it onto Oprah’s Favorite Summer Things list of 2020!

We recommend trying their Cucumber Jalapeno tequila.

Herradura – Jalisco, Mexico Silver tequila | María Teresa Lara started her career at Herradura as their quality control supervisor, moved her way up to serve as their manager of research and development, and retired as their master distiller.  She was both the first woman to lead production and the first female master distiller at a tequila distillery.  She has since retired but certainly made history during her career, and has passed down her expertise to her apprentice Karinna Enriquez who is the current master taster.

We recommend their Silver Tequila.

Revel – Morelos, Mexico | Okay, technically Revel makes agave spirits but they live in our tequila isle as they should so here we are.  The founder and CEO of Revel, Micah McFarlane (who is originally from Minnesota!), wanted to create a spirit that combined the roasting techniques of mezcal with the steaming techniques of tequila to create this agave spirit which is 100% made in Morelos, Mexico from avila agave.  His vision is to share Morelos with the world, and create high end agave spirits for everyone to enjoy.  You should definitely keep tabs on this up and coming distillery.

We recommend the Revel Blanco.

RUM

Appleton Estate – Nassau Valley, Jamaica | Joy Spence is a legend in the industry because after sixteen years as chief chemist at Appleton she became their master blender, the first woman master blender in the industry!  She started out teaching chemistry but decided to get some experience in the field.  While working at a job that was boring her, she saw the distillery bustling across the street and applied.  They loved her so much they made the position of chief chemist for her and hired her two weeks later.  Joy has dedicated her life to the rum industry ever since!  The Jamaican government has given her two awards for her dedication to the industry.  She received the “Order of Distinction in the Rank of Officer” and was the first woman to receive the “National Medal of Science and Technology”.

We recommend trying the Appleton Estate 12 Year.

NON-ALCOHOLIC

Ghia – Los Angeles, CA | Melanie Masarin decided that drinking wasn’t for her anymore and while on a trip with friends started to think about how she could bring something fun and elegant to the NA world.  Inspired by her childhood in the Meditteranian, and the aperitifs her grandmother would serve, she launched Ghia.  Ghia is “a spirits-free apéritif adapted for modern times” and can be enjoyed over the rocks or as a part of many NA cocktails you can find on their website.

You can find Ghia in our non-alcoholic section by the registers.  Not sure if you’ll love it?  Don’t worry, it comes in single serving cans too, so why not give it a shot?

It’s Cap Corse Time!

by Tom Schneideker

Alright everyone, gather ’round: I need to introduce you to something very special to me. Its name is Cap Corse Quinquina Blanc, and you need to do yourself a favor and stick a bottle in the fridge. Cap Corse is a quininated aperitif wine that lives in our vermouth section. Is it vermouth? Well, no, not really; its bittering agent is quinine instead of wormwood. That same quinine is in the tonic in your G&Ts. It is technically part of the tonic wine family, which is very similar to Lillet. So similar, in fact, that both Lillet and Cap Corse date back to the same year, from the same country. These products use different grape varieties from their respective regions, different citrus, and different bittering recipes. While Lillet went mainstream and shied away from the Quina title (or ‘Kina’ as they dubbed it), Cap Corse stayed much closer to its original roots.

 

Cap Corse hails from the northern peninsula of Corsica off the French coast named, well, Cap Corse. It has been in production since 1872 and is still a family run operation on the island. Cap Corse is bright, fresh, and somehow perfectly sweet and bitter. It is made with an ancient thick-skinned relative of the leman named cedrat to add bring citrus and balance out the quinine bitterness. See, back in the day, quinine was imported from Africa and South America in the form of cinchona bark. It was used as a blood thinner and became the cure for malaria. Everything in a gin and tonic has a purpose, from the alcohol killing anything in the water, the tonic with malaria, and the lime for scurvy.

 

Now for the $18 question: how do you use Quinquina? First and foremost, the answer is 2 oz quinquina to 4-6oz soda or tonic water, to your taste. This is a refreshing low alcohol, sessionable cocktail. You can also toss a drizzle on top of a G&T for more of that bitter and citrus.

 

My favorite, however, is using quinquina in a white negroni. Use equal parts of a bone-dry gin (the new favorite is Greenhook), Cap Corse Quinquina, and Luxardo Bianco–a beautiful gentian liqueur akin to a more natural Campari. But here’s the kicker: you need to walk 100(ish) feet across the street to the co-op and buy a fresh grapefruit–an onerous task indeed. Once you add a half part of freshly squeezed grapefruit, stir, strain, and serve in a coupe or Nick and Nora glass. Its fresh, zingy citrus plays with the dry gin and bitter botanical perfectly. This is the only drink you need for these hot summer evenings.

I repeat:

Stir and strain into a coupe or Nick and Nora glass, and enjoy. 

Try it out and let us know what you think!


Interested in knowing more about quinquina, vermouth, and spritzes? Check out our summer class offerings!

 

GET SPRITZED! | Wednesday, August 11th, 6pm | Join Sam for a hands-on dive into the Spritz; from its origins as a soldier’s drink in the Austro-Hungarian Empire to its modern-day, Aperol-branded incarnation. Along the way, we’ll mix up a smörgasbord of Spritzes, Spritz-relatives, and other aperitivo-inspired drinks in the France 44 Classroom.

 

HOMEMADE VERMOUTH: A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE | Thursday, August 19th, 6pm | We bet you didn’t know you could make vermouth yourself! We’ll go into the history behind vermouth and learn the classic components and steps for batching your own aromatized, fortified wine – we’ll supply the ingredients, and you’ll leave with a small batch of a hand-crafted vermouth of your own.