‘Prairie’ Home Companion

June 29, 2009

Dear PurSippers!

Good news– contrary to the nay-saying press and industry buffs who were constantly hinting that the ‘Organic Spirits Market’ is just a passing fad we are finding that now more than ever are brand new, organically produced and hand-crafted products are becoming available than ever before. My Saf Bar and Restaurant in London is lucky enough to be one of the few that gets to try these great products out and I’ve been blessed on a recent trip to the US to be able to try some fantastic products. Since many spirits buff don’t focus on organics as a big part of their collection I’ve been trying to champion these great products and have even been asked to compile a list of all the organics into a Difford-esque review.

One of my favourite new products in this organic-spirits-boom of late I’ve would have to be the venerable Prairie Organic Vodka. Hailing from the ultra-natural Heartland of Minnesota, Prairie offers a great example of what the best in organic spirits can be. Unlike the (equally exquisite) Square One Organic Vodka made from organic rye, Prairie is a corn-based spirit made from #2 yellow corn and without the dubious ‘organic representation’ of a certain -ahem- other ‘RAINed’ upon spirit, has fully organic and kosher certifications. They even work with the farmers directly to assure top quality for each bottle. Mazel Tov!

Other initiatives such as the use of every single bit of by-product from the corn and a revolutionary approach to business (here family owned Ed Philips & Sons who makes Prairie uses a profit sharing scheme for all employees and fair trade practices throughout) that reminds me of the forward-thinking of PurSip fan and Whole Foods founder John Mackey (PS- Whole Foods just recently had a regional meeting in Austin which I did the drinks for:

Watermelon-Basil Caipirinha
2 ounces Albelha Organic Cachaca
5-6 1-inch cubes of Seedless Watermelon
1 1/2 lime
2 bar spoons (a little less than a tablespoon) organic brown sugar
3 basil leaves
Shake all well together and empty all contents into an Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a slim piece of watermelon peel

but I digress….

back to Prairie my favourite thing about it (and there’s a lot–especially their sleek packaging and ad campaign) is the taste. The rich slightly melon-y character of the vodka is ultra-refreshing and provides a big contrast to a richer ‘mealy’ grain based vodka. This also means it mixes perfectly for all my favourite summertime cocktails. Here’s a few I’ve been slinging since trying Prairie:

Guilty Husband

25ml Hibiscus-infused Prairie Vodka*
15 ml Elderflower (Chase makes a great one in the UK or use St. Germain)
15 ml Creme de Violette (The Bitter Truth just launched a stunning one or use Rothman and Winter)
Dash of Orange Flower Water (Bitter Truth all the Way)
Rose Champagne (I use Fleury)

Stir the liquor. Strain. Top with Champagne. Garnish with a flower.

*just seep about 100 grams of dried hibiscus flowers in a bottle–you can’t over infuse

Pear, Lime and Thyme
40 mls Prairie Organic Vodka
20 mls Lime Juice
10 mls Thyme Simple Syrup
40 mls Pear Juice
Splash of Soda
Shake all ingredients except the soda and strain over fresh ice. Garnish with a Thyme sprig.

Prairie and the Green Fairy
50 mls Prairie Organic Vodka
10 mls Maraschino (Maraska)
5 mls Absinthe (La Clandestine)
25 mls fresh ruby red grapefruit juice
20 mls Spicy Rhubarb Syrup (in a medium saucepan bring 2 cups diced rhubarb and 1 part sugar/1 part water to a boil. Cover and simmer on low heat until the rhubarb breaks down. Remove and stir in 1 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger and 1 tablespoon ground coriander. Strain and store in a glass container.)
15 mls fresh lime juice.

Shake all ingredients and strain over fresh ice. Garnish with a Thyme sprig.

Let me know your thoughts if you try any of these out or send me over some other recipes you may come up with using the Prairie! That’s it for now!!

Keep sipping,

Joe McCanta

Spring and Summertime Cocktail Article

June 20, 2009

Hi All!

I’ve been asked to write an article for an upcoming mag– (can’t tell which one yet!)–and I thought i’d preview it to all the loyal PurSippers out there! As always, thanks for emailing me your comments and thoughts!

Lots more news to come but for now check out the article! Keep sipping!!


Spring and summer are my favorite times of year and nothing is as exciting as a spring evening in the Capital. Packed patios usually neglected explode into veritable street parties as everyone sheds pounds so they can in turn shed clothing—and maybe even their decency! As if that’s not enough, spring offers the perfect opportunity to sip exotic-named, umbrella-laden, colorful and fresh-fruity cocktails. Whether it’s to cool your guests down at a BBQ, please at a poolside picnic, or spice up a night on the town, here are some essential tips to help you get the most out of the solstice months.

Joe McCanta’s Favourite Spring and Summertime Cocktails:

There are two routes to go when creating springtime cocktails. First is to stick with refreshing and innovative ingredients that create just the right mix of flavour and what I like to call the ‘cool down’ factor. But the most important factor for a well-made summer cocktail is ICE and lots of it. That being said, the cocktails that please the most are those which develop well while sitting in the hot sun being constantly diluted by melting ice. So many cocktails these days aren’t direct enough to actually open up with the addition of water/ice and my biggest rule of thumb with a summer drink has always been the first sip should be a tad tight or intense so that by the third or fourth you have a superbly balanced mouthful of cool. Also we use a variety of spices and especially berries that come to life during the summer months which include strawberries, mint and Here’s 3 great innovative pours we’ve been slinging all summer long to some great success.

Soho Negro—An interesting and intense blend of a little known Italian aperitif, Tequila and in-season British berries.
50 mls Ocho blanco tequila— if in the US go with the lovely 4 Copas! Which I was lucky enough to be sipping (or slugging) with the likes of the greats H. Joseph Ehrmann at his own SF Elixir as well as Dimitri Lezinska from Grey Goose
2 British Blackberries or Strawberries (black makes it a touch more bitter)
20 mls ounce Nardini Amaro (italian liqueur)
15 mls lemon juice
10 mls simple syrup
Top with Lambrusco

Muddle the berries with all other ingredients except the tequila and champagne. Add the tequila and shake. Double strain contents into a champagne flute or coupe and top with Lambrusco. Garnish with a half a strawberry or edible flower.

The Safia—Showcasing British strawberries beautifully against botanical gin and soft chamomile, this drink tastes like summer in a glass.
50 ml Juniper Green Organic Gin
4 quarters of Fresh Lime
20 ml Chamomile Syrup**
2 Fresh Strawberries
2 Fresh Basil Leaves
Splash of Soda
Dash of Angostura bitters

Muddle the strawberries, basil, syrup and lime. Add in the Angostura and gin and shake well. Strain over fresh ice and garnish with a basil flower and fresh sliced strawberry.

**Brew 1 Cup of Strong Chamomile Tea. Let cool and mis with 2 Cups of Agave. Store in a glass container refrigerated. Will last for several weeks.

Gooseberry Mojito—Gooseberries are a lovely seasonal treat that can add juiciness to any standard mojito.
50 ml White Raisin Infused Matraga Organic White Rum**
6-8 Gooseberries (remove the leaves)
4 Quarters of Fresh Lime
8-10 Fresh Mint Leaves
25 mls House Made Mint-Agave Syrup***
Soda Water

White Raising Rum
** Take about 150 grams of white raisins and infuse with 75 cls Rum for at least 2 nights. Can leave infusing for weeks.

*** Take 1 large bunch of mint and chop the tips of the stems off but leave the stalks attached. Wash the mint and then add it to100 ml Agave Syrup and Mix with 200ml water. Heat on medium for about 15 min or until the syrup turns a light olive color and smells fragrant. Transfer to a glass container and store refrigerated. Will last for 2-3 weeks.

In the metal half of a shaker, muddle the gooseberries, syrup, mint and lime. Add in the rum and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Empty contents over fresh ice and top with a splash of soda water

As if this bevy of spring and summertime organically-focused cocktails aren’t enough to whet your whistle, here is a list of pointers and ‘bar chef secrets’ that have worked for decades to keep your summer’s cool if not calm. Though not all tips are as ‘organic-focused’ as Saf, all are classic and follow age-honored and all-natural processes and ingredients.

No AC- No Problem!
If there’s one thing to be learned from the Gatsby-era flappers of the ‘20s it’s how to stay cool. These glamorous socialites embraced NYC’s stifling city summers with no AC while donning sweaty gowns or suits and still somehow always looked snappy and polished. Their trick?—a simple stocked home bar complete with fresh juices, herbs, flavorings and mixers to create a slew of some of the coolest concoctions that bathtub liquor could yield. In the summertime I like to keep my drinks simple—one shouldn’t have to think too hard in the heat:

A Classically Stocked Bar
Spirits: Organic Vodka (UK5), Organic Gin (Juniper Green), Bourbon/Rye Whiskey (I use the lovely small batched Sazerac , Organic Rum (Papagayo Fair Traide)
Mixers: Sweet Vermouth, Dry Vermouth, Angostura Bitters, Cointreau (or Triple Sec), Simple Syrup**
Herbs: Fresh Mint (optional fresh sage, fresh tarragon)
Fresh Fruits/Juices: Orange, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime (optional peaches, watermelon, apricots)
** just mix 1 part water and one part sugar. Dissolve the sugar over low heat for about ten minutes and transfer to a glass container. Store refrigerated up to 2 weeks.

You’d be amazed at how many deliciously refreshing drinks you can make with these simple items and a couple essential tips. First, only use fresh ingredients always—nothing is worse than a Mojito made with 3-day-old lime juice and wilted mint. The easiest thing is to keep a counter-top level juicer handy and press the fruit as you’re whipping up the drink. If you’re expecting guests you can make a ½ liter of each juice and store well-chilled in an air tight container. Secondly (and maybe most importantly), use tons and tons of ice—drinks need to be frosty to be refreshing and perfectly balanced, and the colder the drink, the less diluted it becomes as you sip. Large ice cubes work best and you can always crack them with a bar spoon in a towel to get smaller chunks for drinks like Daiquiris and Mint Juleps. Finally, try throwing in some fresh fruit to spice up any recipe.
Here’s a few breezy classic cocktails along with some easy variations to give them a modern twist:

Classic Mojito
60 ml Utkins Fair Trade White Rum
4-6 lime wedges
8 mint leaves
30 ml Simple Syrup
Dash Angostura Bitters
Splash of Soda
In a shaker muddle the mint, syrup, and bitters with a muddler or wooden spoon. Add the rum and ice and shake vigorously for 20 sec. Strain into a separate glass filled with ice. Top with a splash of soda and some fresh mint tips.
**also try adding 3 cubes of fresh watermelon to the shaker for a deliciously sweeter take. For a spicier version add in some fresh sage with the mint.

Classic Mint Julep
cracked ice cubes
4 sprigs of mint
15 ml Simple Syrup
(for more flavor let mint sit refrigerated in regular simple syrup overnight)
60 ml Bourbon (such as Saf’s house pour Buffalo Trace—made at the same distillery as Organic Rain Vodka amongst other fine products)

In the bottom of a heavy glass muddle the mint and syrup together. Add the cracked ice and stir well for 10 seconds. Then add the bourbon and stir again until the outside of the glass is frosty. Garnish with fresh mint sprinkled with a little confectioners’ sugar.
**I love throwing a whole pitted fresh peach into the glass as you’re muddling to give the julep a soft, fruity taste.

Gin or Vodka Rickey
(The simplest cocktail around, classically rickey’s are made with gin but vodka makes this sip too-easy-to-gulp down)
25 ml fresh lime juice
50 ml UK5s Organic Vodka or Junpier Green Gin
10ml Simple Syrup
Soda Water
Mix the vodka, lime and syrup in a glass filled with ice. Top with soda and stir again. Garnish with a lime wedge or cucumber slice.
**Try adding 3 fresh (and topped) strawberries along with 4 leaves of tarragon to all the ingredients except the soda and shake. Strain into a glass filled with ice and top with soda (or even prosecco!).

Bronx and Bitters
50 ml Junipero Gin
10 ml Vya Sweet Vermouth
10 ml Vya Dry vermouth
25 ml fresh squeezed organic orange juice
Dash of Bitter Truth Orange Bitters
Orange Peel
Shake all ingredients with plenty of ice and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with orange peel.
**For a great variation add 2 tablespoons whole cloves and 2 tablespoons of freshly grated ginger to your simple syrup as you heat it. Let the syrup sit for 10 minutes and then strain. Add 20 ml Ginger-Clove Simple Syrup to above recipe.

These drinks will get you by at home but some steamy nights it’s just too hot to work—and better to let someone else do the shaking for you—which we are happy to do at Saf.


Stunning Stockholm!

June 5, 2009

Hi All! Just returned from Dear Ol’ Stockholm where I was part of a beautiful new book that Absolut has created focused on mixology. The book is centered around their new campaign ‘In an Absolut World…“. For this, the premise is ‘In an Absolut World, Everyone is a Mixologist”! What a great concept and you could imagine such a better world if TGIF could make a stunning Sazerac or you could get a Trilby Cocktail to go at McDonalds! From my side of things, I developed some drinks and a photo shoot for the lovely Coffee-table sized book complete with flip book “movies” of how to shake drinks, muddle, etc.

Which cocktails? Well I thought you’d never ask….

The thing is I came up with Round 1 which I thought were quite lovely and I was lucky enough to have that confirmed by the members of Jessica 6 (Hercules and Love Affiar’s new amazing side project) who were in town to play Cargo last weekend. The quotes from the band were all I needed to feel confident about the drinks however, as is often the case, I got a little too caught up in what a ‘simple cocktail’ means. After submitting the drinks the folks at V & S asked me to simplify even further and the end result was a great exercise in learning how to make even the simplest of combinations still taste fresh and declious–so thanks to Absolut for that!

I can’t post the final cocktail until the book is published but have a gander at Round 1 and as always let me know your thoughts!

Keep Sipping….


Absolut Cocktail Book Cocktails

The Maldives
Representing the spicy and aromatic tropical character of the world’s smallest country.
4 Parts Absolut
3 cardamom pods
3 parts agave simple syrup
2 parts fresh lime juice
4 slices cucumber
2 sprigs of rosemary
Dash of orange bitters

Muddle the cardamom, rosemary, syrup, and cucumber. Add in the Absolut and orange bitters and shake well. Double strain into an ice cold martini glass. Garnish with a firm floating basil leaf and 3 cardamom seeds.

+For a Spicier Version Try with 2 parts Absolut Peppar and 2 parts Absolut Mandarine

+For a slightly more aromatic version add in 4 fresh basil leaves

A Night in Tunisia
Subtly spicy with all the timeless classiness of an old film
4 Parts Absolut
2 Parts Sweet Vermouth
1 part Apricot Brandy
2 parts Fresh Orange Juice
dash of Absinthe

Shake all ingredients well and strain into an ice cold martini glass. Garnish with a flamed orange peel and a slight sprinkling of cinnamon.

+For a slightly sweeter and more rounded version substitute Pernod for the Absinthe

+For a crisper, cleaner version substitute Absolut Ruby Red  and lime instead of orange juice

The Victorian
Light, aromatic and botanical with fresh garden flavours
4 parts Absolut
8 fresh raspberries
3 parts Pomegranate juice
2 parts Lavender Syrup
1 part Maraschino Liqueur
6 quarters lime
1 garden-fresh violet

Muddle all the ingredients. Shake very hard and empty the entire contents (without straining) into an Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a rolled violet or 2 lavender sprigs.

+For a deeper and juicier version substitute Absolut Kurant and blackberries for raspberries.

+For a drier version eliminate the Lavender syrup and use 2 parts maraschino.

Mediterranean Exile
Fiesty, fragile and fruity with a luscious aromatic quality

5 parts Absolut
2 fresh Strawberries
2 parts Chamomile Syrup
1 pinch of White Pepper
2 leaves of fresh Basil
1 dash of White Balsamic reduction
4 quarters of lime

Muddle all ingredients except for the White Balsamic Reduction. Shake Well and strain into an ice-filled Collins glass. Float the dash of White Balsamic directly in the center and garnish with fresh basil and a few peppercorns.

+For a lovely softer version substitute Absolut Vanilia

+For a less layered flavour, leave out the chamomile syrup and white pepper and use 2 parts simple syrup

Eastern Orchards
Soft and centered but with a hint of mysterious  intrigue
5 parts Absolut
2 fresh lychees
1 quarter fresh peach muddled
2 parts Jasmine Green Tea Syrup
1 part fresh lemon juice
splash of pomegranate grenadine

Muddle the peach, lychees, and jasmine syrup then add the lemon and vodka and shake. Strain into an ice cold martini glass and add the dash of grenadine to the center of the drink. Garnish with a slice of fresh peach and lychee or alternatively 3 Jasmine Tea Pearls.

+You can substitute Absolut Apeach and leave out the fresh peach for a cleaner version.

+ For a less floral version substitute simple syrup for Jasmine Tea Syrup

Le Mistral
The light wind that rolls through Europe, warming and agitating the hills at the same time
3 parts Absolut
1 part Pernod
2 parts fresh lemon juice
3 parts simple syrup
3 fresh Tarragon leaves
8 fresh blueberries
Dash of Angostura Bitters

Muddle the tarragon, simple syrup and blueberries with the Pernod. Add in the lemon, bitters and vodka and shake. Strain into an ice-filled Collins glass and garnish with 3 blueberries speared through a Tarragon sprig and a lemon spiral.

+For a different take, substitute red currant for raspberries and basil and mint for tarragon

+Try with Absolut Pears for a divinely subtle version

Spice Bazaar
Seductively spicy and always willing to negotiate

5 parts Absolut
3 parts Passion fruit juice
8 mint leaves
2 parts agave simple syrup
1 whole star anise
3 whole cloves
1 pinch of cinnamon
1 tsp of ground ginger

Muddle the spices and ginger with the mint, syrup and passion fruit.  Add the vodka and shake. Strain into an ice-filled Collins glass  and garnish with mint and a whole star anise.

+For an intriguingly spicy version use 2 parts Peppar and 3 parts Mandarin.

+For a more tropical version use 2 parts Absolut Mango and 3 parts your favourite White Rum

Southern Hospitality
Harmoniously bringing together all the flavours and aromas of a trip down the Mississippi
5 Parts Absolut
6 1-inch cubes of fresh watermelon
2 fresh basil leaves
1 pinch of cayenne pepper
6 1/8ths of fresh lime
2 tablespoons vanilla sugar

Place all ingredients in a shaker and shake. Empty entire contents into an Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a vanilla pod or the rind of the watermelon finely sliced.

+For a drier version leave out the vanilla sugar and substitute 3 parts Absolut Raspberrie and 2 Parts Absolut Vanilia

+Try leaving out the Cayenne and experimenting with your favourite melons such as Honey Dew or Cantaloupe.

Baja Bocana
Taste the rolling hills surrounding the secluded rivers beaches reaching out to the Pacific
5 parts Absolut
3 parts Pineapple Juice
3 sage leaves
1 part peach liqueur
2 parts orange liqueur
splash of lime

Place all ingredients in a shaker and shake. Double strain into an ice cold martini glass. Garnish with fresh sage and a slice of pineapple.

+Try substituting cranberry juice for pineapple for a crisper more Autumnal version.

+ For an earthy margarita substitute 2 parts Absolut Mandarin and 3 parts your favourite Reposado tequila.

The Norseman
Pure, clean and wildly fresh with an intense and lasting depth
5 parts Absolut
1 part dry vermouth
½ part Maraschino liqueur
1 part cherry brandy
2 dashes orange blossom water
dash of Orange bitters
1 lime twist

Twist the lime into the bottom glass half of a shaker. Place all ingredients in the glass half of the shaker and stir slowly. Strain into an ice-cold martini glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

+For a slightly richer version add in 1 part of sweet vermouth.

+For a refreshing take, add in 2 parts lime juice and substitute 5 parts Absolut Pears—shake don’t stir.

Just in Time for Summer: Joe McCanta’s Top 10 Ways to Avoid a Hangover!!

April 30, 2009
never again.....

never again.....

All it takes is a stroll through solarium-tanned, sunglass-donning crowds swarming the tulip booths and steamed-corn vendors in the city to know that summer is indeed descending upon us. As more and more of the dark warm corner clubs that got us through winter empty out in favor of the mass migration to the sunnier spots, it’s easy to fuel the celebration of spring with some indulgence–or over-indulgence as the case may be. Many of these impromptu tributes to ‘yaz geldi’ as the Turks call it start off harmless enough but end up as late-night causes to bleary eyes and headaches the next day, along with the myriad of hangover cures that everyone from your boss to the overly helpful taxi driver will recommend. But as the saying goes ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,’ so why not welcome this season with a resolution to think ahead and keep those nasty ‘never-doing-that-again’ mornings at bay? Apart from avoiding alcohol altogether here’s how to cheat paying for what you get:

1.    The 1 to 1 Rule.

The number one cause for next-morning agony is dehydration. This is because alcohol causes your liver to run in overtime and as your body gets starved for water to keep the factory running it starts recruiting it from anywhere it can—especially the brain. You can prevent this the next time you’re out by committing yourself to drinking one glass of water with every drink you have, be it a shot, beer, or bright pink umbrella-laden fishbowl of hooch. If you know enough a ahead of time that you will be going out you can also stock up on water throughout the day or even blend a couple pieces of ultra-hydrating watermelon with water and drink it down—too much is never enough and your head will thank you for it.
2.    Don’t Ride the Bull!

Stay away from artificially sweetened mixers and soft drinks—especially the much toted but lethal Red Bull. The caffeine and processed sugar present in Red Bull help to accelerate your body’s dehydration and pumps you full of short-term energy, making you feel invincible for a couple of hours but then nose-diving you back to earth at the end of the night. Likewise, drinks that are brighter than the neon bar sign out front tend to be made from processed syrups filled with cornstarch and harmful preservatives. The best thing to do is sip a base spirit mixed with ice and water or soda (which also helps you follow Rule # 1). Or try mixing with fresh citrus juice—not only will this keep you hydrated but it will fill you with the Vitamin C your body needs to clean you back out.Or if you really can’t give up on the good ‘ol Bull try their brand new Cola— it’s 100% all natural, caffeine-free and actually one of the best colas I’ve tried. At Saf in London we make a drink called the:

Cuba Natural
40 mls Vanilla Infused Fairt Trade Organic Papagayo Spiced Rum

1/2 Lime-Juiced

agave syrup to taste
Shake and serve on the rocks topped with Red Bull Natural cola

3.    Drinking Clear for a Clearer Head.

Another main cause of hangovers is congeners (toxins formed during the fermentation process). These little head-splitting wonders are particularly potent in darker spirits such as whiskey, aged rum, cordials (did someone say Jager-monster?), and red wine. By sticking with spirits you can see through (even if you’re seeing double) you can avoid congeners and the morning-after torment they induce.
4.    Be Loyal.

Drinking is a lot like dating: constantly switching back and forth and running from commitment just ends you up drunk, desperate, and alone at 4.a.m. in a dingy dive bar how you don’t need anything in life but your shoes. If you start with a spirit it is best to commit to it for the rest of the night rather than mixing it up—not only does it make it a little easier for your body to handle but you’re less likely to drink as much than if you are constantly trying new tastes.  As you get over-saturated with the spirit you’re having, your body signals you to head home.
5.    Don’t Be Cheap.

Sure you want to squeeze in 5 drinks for the price of one but what good are those extra 4 drinks when they come back up the next morning? Producers save money to make these spirits cheap by not spending as much time filtering and fining the product, creating a very unclean raw material filled with impurities.  By splurging on 1 really quality drink rather than a few made from the cheap stuff you can actually appreciate what you’re drinking too, which will slow down your overall consumption.
6.    Eat Up and Eat Well.

If you know you’re going to be out for a night on the town, give your body the fuel it needs to be prepared for the onslaught. Eat foods rich in nutrients and especially Vitamin’s C and B (that your body loses as you drink) to help be prepared. Spinach, carrots, red peppers, and beans or legumes can all stock your system up while carbohydrate-rich foods especially those made from whole grains help slow the absorption of alcohol into your blood-stream.  Also, the fuller you are on nutrient-rich foods, the less likely you are to binge on a burger at midnight.
7.    Keep a Tab.

One of the best ways to prevent drinking too much is to keep a running tab of what you drink throughout the night. Your body burns alcohol at the rate of about 3 cl an hour. Something as simple as a napkin with slash marks on it can keep you aware of how far along you are even as your newest best friend at the bar tries to buy you another shot. 9 times out of 10 people drink too much because they drink too fast to be aware of how many they’ve had and by writing your drinks down you can pace yourself much easier.
8.    Work it Out.

The higher your metabolism is the easier for your body to process the toxins found in alcohol. Getting exercise prior to a night out can help you boost your metabolism and also helps you burn through the empty calories found in booze. This works that night too–even if you don’t usually exercise. Something as simple as moderate dancing (breaking a sweat) for 30 minutes or walking home rather than hopping the train at the end of the night will help you heal quicker in the morning.
9.    Give Yourself an Allowance.

This is a great trick I picked up from wise parents worldwide. Treat yourself like a teen and limit the amount of money you can spend, bringing only a pre-determined amount of cash (with no credit cards) for the entire night. Most people have that ‘one-drink-too-many’ late at night when they appreciate it the least and it can do the most harm.  By financially limiting yourself you can reason a little better when temptation strikes—unless of course you resort to hawking your Rolex for another Gibson.
10.    Don’t Smoke.

I know, I know, just one more offence to add to the list for cigarettes. But the truth is when you smoke your liver puts the cigarette first on its list to detox, leaving the alcohol to slowly sit untouched in your system which in turn leaves more of the booze in your bloodstream and more pain the next morning. The next time your out and feel the urge promise yourself if you can wait for 60 minutes you can have a smoke. Chances are in the next hour the urge will pass and you’ll either change location or mindset making it easier.

Soho Rep!

April 29, 2009

Hi All-

My lovely friend Meghan Finn of the reputable SoHo Reperatory Theatre in NYC asked me to create some cocktails for their Gala event hosted by THE Edward Norton! I met “Ed” (as I like to call him) once at the Hollywood Bowl and he was every bit as nice as he seems whilst beating the shit out of people in Fight Club….just kidding! He’s actually one of my top 10 favorite actors and an amazingly humble and cool guy to boot! Glad he’ll be sipping my concoctions!

The great folks at 4 Copas–one of the finest Tequilas on the planet which just happens to be organic– are offering their sponsorship.

For vodka, I used the brand new and incredibly produced product Praire Organic Vodka. You’ll be hearing quite a bit about this fantastic hand-crafted vodka from Minnesota. Many, many thanks to the great folks at Ed Philips & Sons for their support for this event!!

And WHAT are those drinks you might ask?

Margarita Botanica                             Served in a Coupe
50 mls (2 oz) 4 Copas Organic Tequila
25 mls (1 oz) Lime Juice
20 mls ( ¾ oz) Lavender Syrup  (from Sonoma Syrup Co. or make your own*)
15 mls ( ½ oz ) Cointreau or Triple Sec
2 dashes of Green Chartreuse
Shake and tea strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a lime peel.

* Lavender syrup: Cook down 2 tablespoons of fresh lavender flowers, de-stemmed with 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water until sugar is diluted and the mixture is aromatic. Strain and reserve in a glass container.

Una Apretada                             Served in a Coupe

25 mls (1 oz) 4 Copas Organic Tequila
25 mls (1 oz) Lime Juice
25 mls (1 oz) Apricot Brandy (such as Giffard)–PS for an EXCELLENT blog about Apry click here
10 mls (2 tsp) Sweet Vermouth (such as Vya)
Dash of Cynar—Artichoke Liqueur
Shake and Strain.

Moroccan Martini                             Served in a Coupe
50 mls (2 oz) Prairie Vodka
20 mls (¾ oz) Thick Apricot Juice (alternatively use passion fruit)
10 mls (2 tsp) Simple Syrup
10 mls (2 tsp) Lemon Juice
Fresh Ginger    1 tsp
1 tsp of Spice Mix*
1 part ground fennel, 1 part ground star anise, 1 part cinnamon, 1 part cardamom

Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a whole star anise

*Spice Mix- equal parts ground cinnamon, ground fennel, ground star anise, cinnamon, cardamom– this blend is a nod to the AMAZING 7 Spice Rim that the incredible bartender Adam Seger gave me in Vail. If you don’t know Adam, you haven’t had a good drink! Check out the Lush Blog’s great interview with him.

50 mls (2 oz) Prairie Organic Vodka
25 mls ( 1 oz) Lavender Simple Syrup* see above
10 mls (2 tsp) Ceres Lychee juice
½ Lime     whole lime in 8ths
4 Tarragon Leaves
2 slices Cucumber
Shake     and empty into rocks glass. Garnish with fresh tarragon and shaved cucumber.

Extra, Extra…..

March 26, 2009

Hi PurSippers—
Hope you are well and apologies for being out of touch! But I am pleased to say that many exciting new items are in the works which has kept me busy. Just wanted to check in and also leave an update on some great new

News and Events:

  • I was announced as the winner of the Grey Goose Dream Bar Competition! This was a very innovative competition sponsored by the folks at Grey Goose in which a brief is created on the PERFECT Bar and the winning brief (along with a matching cocktail) gets the bar built as well as to keep it! So I am now the proud owner of a fully-sustainably built Green House Bar! That’s right, my bar will offer the freshest cocktails on the planet because we are building the bar with a Greenhouse format so that all herbs, garnishes and ingredients can be freshly picked–stay tuned for the launch date details of this exciting project and thanks to the genius Richard Vine who is helping consult for the planting part!

  • Heading to Vail, Colorado next week as I was lucky enough to be chosen for their Vail Mixology Summit. Whilst there I will be meeting with the nation’s top mixologists to discuss new industry trends and create some smashing new cocktails! I’m in Vail the 1st-8th so if you’re in town, swing in!

-Pleased to say that on January 29th, 2009 the venerable (and almost-holy) Oprah Winfrey was celebrating her birthday PurSip Cocktail in hand! That’s right, the O wanted to ring in another year with the freshest cocktails on the planet and I was pleased to be a part!! What cocktails, you might ask?? Well after reading that her faves are the Pomegranate Martini and the Lemon Drop I developed my own takes on the drinks:

Moroccan Lemon drop
50 ml (2 oz) Apricot-Anise Organic Vodka**
25 ml (1 oz) Agave Simple Syrup***
15 ml ( ½ – ¾ oz) Fresh Lemon Juice
1 thin slice of fresh ginger
OPT: Garnish with1 tablespoon Citrus Sugar*

If using the citrus sugar, take a lemon wedge and rub around the rim of a chilled martini glass. Lean the outside of the rim only against a plate of citrus sugar and rim the glass about 2 cm thick making sure that none of the sugar gets inside the glass. Combine Vodka, Ginger, Lemon and Simple Syrup in a shaker. Shake vigorously for a slow ten count and straining contents through a tea strainer into glass. Garnish with either an edible flower or a thin orange spiral & halved vodka-soaked apricot.

*2 parts fine sugar to one part lemon zest—dehydrate over night and blend to a very fine consistency in a Vitamix machine or Cuisinart

** Infuse a 75cl bottle of Organic Vodka (UK5 Utkins or Square One) with ½ kg of Sulfur-Free (brown) dried apricots and 3 Whole Anise Pods for 1-5 days. May infuse longer but dilute mixture to keep a balanced flavor.

***Agave Simple Syrup: Mix 1 part Agave Syrup with 2 Parts Water. Shake Well and refrigerate stored in a glass container.

For 10 cocktails:
300ml simple syrup
225ml Fresh Lemon Juice
½ cup Fresh Ginger 100ml
50 ml of mix to 60 ml Vodka and shake. Follow instructions above.

This builds off the standard flavours of the lemon drop with the addition of some delicious eastern spices and a slight natural sweetness from the Apricot infusion. Of course, no refined sugars are used to preserve the purity of the drink.

Himalayan Blossom
50 mls (2 oz) Goji-Orange Organic Vodka*
10 mls (2 tsp) Cherry Heering Cherry Brandy
10 mls (2 tsp) Pomegranate Juice
10 mls (2 tsp) Cointreau
20 mls (3/4 oz) Fresh Blood Orange Juice
3 tarragon leaves

Shake all ingredients and tea strain into a martini glass. Garnish with cherries or goji berries and a flamed orange twist.

*Combine the peel of 1 orange with about 60 grams Goji berries and infuse a bottle of Organic Vodka (Utkins 5 or Square One) overnight

This is the PurSip take on the drink, using fresh pomegranate juice but mixing it with seasonal Blood Oranges and a hint of softness from Tarragon. Of course, the main focus of the drink is the Goji-Orange Vodka, with Goji’s replacing pomegranates as one of the world’s top super foods and creating a very innovative flavour.

  • I’ve teamed up with a very interesting new product Camitz Sparkling Vodka–an all-natural and fully-sparkling (80 proof) vodka just released out of Stockholm! The folks at Camitz are truly thinking out of the box and the fact that they use organic winter wheat and 1000 year old protected water for their product makes it as PURE as it is dangerously POTABLE! Stop by Saf London to try our new cocktails or give it a go yourself with a couple recipes:

Orchard and Spices

50 mls Camitz
Juice of 1 Green Apple
10 mls Lemon
20 mls Rosemary-Kumquat Liqueur
teaspoon Ginger
Stir and top with a little Camitz on the rocks

4 eighths of lime
4 cucumber wheels
25 mls Mint Syrup
25 mls Pear-Apple Juice
10-12 fresh tarragon leaves
Shake all contents and empty Caipirinha style into a Double Old Fashioned glass
Top with 50 mls Camitz, stir and serve

Dark Passions
4 Raspberries
1 Shiso Leaf
Juice of 1 Quarter Lime
20 mls Simple Syrup
20 mls Passion fruit
Shake and double strain into a martini glass
Top with Camitz

The Guilty Husband (Episode #2)
10 mls Creme de Violette
25 mls St. Germain Elderflower
3 dashes Bitter Truth Orange Flower Water
50 mls Camitz
Stir and strain into a martini glass.
Garnish with edible flower

The Heart Martini
1 Violet Leaf
3 Fresh Blackberries
10 mls Lemon Juice
10 mls Apricot Brandy
20 mls Chamomile Syrup
Shake and Double Strain
Top with Camitz and serve

So as you see…it’s been a busy couple weeks. And best of all, there’s even more news to come that’s just in the final stages, so stay tuned and keep sipping!!!!

Joe McCanta


December 16, 2008

Hi Again All!

Writing to you from the beautifully wintery shores of the Golden Horn in Istanbul. Just a quick note to talk about something so so important in the world of the bartender: perspective. As my wise Dad always says ‘de gustebus non desputante est’ or ‘in matters of taste there can be no dispute’ (pardon the horrible latin spelling!). This is a philosophy the Romans stood by and I think more of us bartenders could remember as well. It means, that flat out, people taste differently. Much as how one feels different, looks different and thinks different–he also TASTES differently. And who are we as ‘guides to imbibing’ to tell a person how a Manhattan should be made, or the ‘correct recipe’ for a Singapore Sling. What it comes down to is taste and palate and if someone has the palate for a syrupy-sweet menthol laden Mojito then by golly I’m going to be the first mixologist to make it for them. Our job is to allow those who have no appreciation for the labour put in behind the bar to sit down, be treated like an honoured guest no matter what is ordered and leave with his/her life a little brighter because of our service. That’s my take on it anyways.
Why all this talk on perspective? Well let’s just say I spent some time tonight with an old friend still living in Turkey who opened my mind. To me, being able to come back to Istanbul has been the most amazing treat and I’ve realised how much I missed this gorgeously intoxicating cross-roads of art/culture and ever dichotomous city. To him, it is a bit set in it’s ways due to an envious attitude Turks have towards one another or even to those living abroad. I’m sure we both have some truth and some embellishment in our thoughts–but there lies the punch line: it’s about perspective.
Either way, when you’re lucky enough to find a moment of happiness in any place–when it’s a place that you feel lucky to visit again–then make the most of it and enjoy it wholeheartedly, I guess that’s my ‘Jerry Springer’s Final Thought’ from this sleep-deprived rant. More to come.


New….well, uh, news!

December 14, 2008

Hi everyone!

Thanks for all the comments and emails about the UKTV appearance on ‘Market Kitchen’ this Friday! To be honest, they meant a ton because I was where I belong whilst the show aired–behind the stick mixing drinks–so I never saw it! Here’s hoping one of my more techno-savvy colleagues TIVO-ed it and either way I believe the good folks at ‘Market Kitchen‘ will continue airing it, so maybe 25 years from now when I’m all settled down I can watch a re-run right after an ‘Obama: The Greatest President Who Ever Lived’ special starring one of Will Smith’s kids.

In the meantime I’m traveling a bit right now and just wanted to keep you up to date.

I’m heading to Istanbul this week for an amazing event:

Gap and Apple have teamed up to present fashion that matches each Ipod Nano Chromatic–and I’ve been fortunate enough to get the exciting chance to create a cocktail to match each Ipod as well! I’ve never worked solely on a colour-basis for cocktails so this is quite a fun challenge. I’ll be posting the cocktails I’ve created in the next few weeks, but in the meantime check out the website here to see the campaign.

One more quick news item was a wonderful feature from Danny Ronen and Jenn Faringdon of the Tasting Panel magazine that just was forwarded on to me. The Tasting Panel is by far the top industry magazine for all-things-bar and I’m humbled for a feature in their Trends:London issue. Best of all, half way through the interview Danny and I realised we attended the same high school! Nice one! Check it out here.

Following this, I’ll be in the US and San Francisco–one of my favorite bar towns–and up to the lovely (and confirmed spiritual vortex of) Mt. Shasta, California. No, not to find myself…but to mix up some drinks for a very special group of folks in the wild-er-ness of Northern Cal. Should be quite a time!

More to come but just wanted to check in on a chilly London day. Cheers and happy pre-holiday madness to all!!

Keeping your spirits clean…

December 4, 2008

Considering the insanely quick rate that the organic trend has spread its way into nearly every market (I mean, come on who really needs organic kitty litter!?!) it comes as no surprise that the liquor industry has jumped on board. But before you disregard the marketing of your favorite vodka as ‘now healthier for you because it’s organic!’ you should really look at exactly what an organic drink means and where the organic philosophy comes from.
The trend really started in the wine industry with many of the world’s finest vineyard owners realizing the negative effect that chemicals were having on their highly valuable land. Starting first with the ancient vineyards of France and Italy, word began spreading that maybe the ‘steroid-like’ pollutants that Agro-Chemical companies were pushing on farmers all over the world in the ‘80s and ‘90s were actually poisoning the land and making grapes that were weaker in flavor and lacking a certain subtlety or depth they once had.  At the same time as more and more vineyard owners who embraced natural methods began winning awards and vocalizing their success with bio-growing, the word ‘organic’ became associated with ‘fresher’, ‘more taste’, and just plain higher quality.
Distilleries all over the world started experimenting with using organic products as the base of their spirits not long after and had similar effects. For instance, many whiskey distilleries in Scotland started buying or growing their own grains organically and noticed not only a better flavor but that many of the plants and animals that had abandoned the environment surrounding their distilleries returned–same with vodka producers throughout Scandinavia, Gin producers in California and Tequila producers in Mexico. It soon became clear that not using chemicals was a win-win situation.
Though it is hard to find many of these organic spirits, there are a plethora of fresh organic fruits and vegetables to create at least an ‘as-organic-as-possible’ cocktail like I do. A good example is the Hafif Ruzgar for which I use organic basil to naturally infuse flavor into Utkins UK5 Vodka, fresh lemons, organic sugar, and Efe’s (newly released) Organic Raki. There is no doubt that the highest quality of ingredients and well-made spirits creates altogether a better-tasting drink. Although not necessarily ‘healthier’ for body, it certainly is much healthier for your soul!

Hafif Ruzgar
3 cl Basil Infused Vodka**
2 cl Organic Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
3 cl Organic Sugar Syrup***
6 Fresh Organic Basil Leaves
1.5 cl Efes Organic Raki
Sparkling Water

In a shaker muddle the basil, lemon juice, sugar, and raki. Add the Basil Vodka, ice and then shake hard for about 20 seconds. Strain into a glass filled with new ice and top with soda water and a fresh basil leaf.

** add about 15 grams (20 leaves) of organic basil into a bottle of vodka and let sit for 6-8 hours unrefrigerated. Strain and transfer into a glass container
***Combine 500grams of sugar with 1 Liter water in a med. sauce pan. Heat over medium heat for about 15 minutes until all the sugar is dissolved. Transfer into an airtight container and refrigerate. Will last for weeks.

Joe McCanta’s Never-Fail Hangover Relief Shake!

November 9, 2008

This is something I’m working on for an up-coming article and thought, do to the nature of the kind folks who visit this blog, I’d pass my never-fail cure on! One other quick note that I’m not using for the article (as it has to be 100% non-alcoholic) is to put 7 strong dashes of Angostura and 7 Peychauds bitters to help as well!

Happy Imbibing,


Joe McCanta’s Never-Fail Hangover Relief Shake!

When we overindulge one of the first things we lose is hydration in our body, followed closely by vitamins C and B. This is a deliciously spicy and hydrating, vitamin-packed morning after cure. We sue C-powered juice, raspberries and pineapple, kidney-cleaning cardamom and cayenne and stomach-soothing ginger and banana which acts as a natural antacid.

50 ml Orange Juice
4 large chunks of Pineapple
8 Raspberries
1 Ripe Banana
1 thin slice of fresh ginger
250 mls Soy Milk
Pinch of Cardamom
Pinch of Cayenne Pepper
Pinch of Salt
Pinch of Cinnamon

Blend all ingredients for as long as your pounding head can stand it.