• The Reynas


There are a lot of lovely bitter liqueurs out there. Suze was introduced to me as the French version of Campari, which, honestly, doesn’t do it justice. Not that Campari isn’t amazing, it is! Why else would we write about it? But Suze and Campari are uniquely different. They both have a balance of amazing bitter and sweetness. However, Suze showcases a herbal complexity and intensity of aromatics that isn't as easily discernible in Campari.


Similarly, the were both created as an aperitif. Both colors distinguish their use in a cocktail. But that’s where the similarities end.


We have two video versions of this post on our YouTube Channel, each with a different cocktail demonstration included:



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Suze is made from wild gentian root grown in the French Alps. It packs bittersweet herbs into a clear, but brightly distinctive golden yellow liqueur. Suze brings flavors of vanilla, candied orange peel, lemon, honey, and spice.


Gentian Root


Humans evolved thinking was bitter was poisonous and should be spit out. But the early medicinal community thought this may actually be good for you. Bitterness increases the production of saliva and digestive juices, which could actually be useful in expelling toxins and moving digestion along.


Spirits distilled from gentian root began being produced in the mid 1700s and quickly became popular around the Swiss, German, and French Alps.


History


Fernand Moureaux inherited his family distillery in 1885. However, nearing bankruptcy, he needed a new idea to keep the distillery alive. He joined forces with his bank manager’s son to create a new style of aperitif. Most aperitifs at the time were made from wine, but they went after the growing bitter root market. Gentian root was already being used for a number of different products including Campari, Moxie Soda, and Angostura bitters.


Moureaux and his associate quickly created a unique product. By 1889, Suze was being commercially produced, and Fernand presented it at the world’s fair in Paris. Suze was awarded the gold medal.


In 1965, Pernod-Ricard took over production and researched environmentally friendly and efficient ways of cultivating gentian root. He made the process as natural as possible without the use of fertilizer or irrigation, while maximizing yields.


Where the name came from remains a mystery to this day.


The distillery


The original distillery was in Maisons-Alfort in northern France. Now it resides in Thuir, which is in the Pyrénées-Orientales at the very southern tip of France along the Mediterranean.


The Thuir distillery is in a beautiful structure that Gustave Eiffel designed. Perhaps you have heard of his tower? Still in style, its ceiling is made of corrugated iron, nuts, and bolts. The Thuir distillery also produces Byrrh and Pernod Absinthe. Add that to the list of places in France we need to visit!


Production


Suze has stuck with the original recipe and traditional production. This includes a mix of wild and farmed gentian root. There are two gentian farms focused on production. One is in Seine-Maritime, which is the Normandy region of coastal Northern France. The other is in Auvergne, a historic province in south central France.


Gentian Root farming in these areas date back to the year 197. However, it's a difficult crop that takes at best 10 years to mature. On top of that, gentian root needs constant protection from other crops and grass.


Once hand-picked, the gentian root is washed and trimmed. The root is then left to macerate in neutral alcohol for at least a full year. After, the root is pressed to extract all possible flavor. The gentian juice is then distilled a second time, a process unique to Suze. Finally, other aromatics are added in. Aged in well-seasoned casks for 18 months.


Cocktail time!


White Negroni

1 oz gin

1 oz Lillet Blanc

1 oz Suze

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass. Fill with ice. Stir.

Strain the mixing glass contents into a chilled coupe.


We stick with equal proportions to honor a true Negroni. However, many recipes increase the gin by up to half an ounce and reduce the Suze down to ½ oz. If you don’t like bitter, this reduced recipe is a good way to introduce Suze.


This drink was supposedly invented in 2001 France when British bartender Wayne Collins could not find Campari or sweet rouge vermouth. Instead, he substituted Suze and Lillet Blanc (relatively sweet, white vermouth), two common French apertifs.


If you're interested in watching a quick cocktail demonstration of the White Negroni, checkout our YouTube channel:


Pennington Daquiri

1 oz. rhum agricole blanc ¾ oz. brandy (We used Cognac) ¾ oz. fresh lemon juice ½ oz. Suze ½ oz. honey syrup ¼ oz. simple syrup

Combine all the ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled.

Double strain into a chilled coupe, then garnish with orange twist.


This drink was created at Lost Hours, which was a bar in Koreatown in NYC. From the creators of the famed cocktail bar, Death & Co., Lost Hours did not survive the Covid-19 pandemic shutdown. Lost Hours built a cocktail menu structured around the four elements of nature: Air, water, earth and fire. And with our powers combined…. JK you Captain Planet fans, but this is a seriously cool idea, and wish I had the chance to visit.


The Pennington Daiquiri fell into the earth section, bringing in vegetal and earth flavors. Beverage director, Tyson Buhler says, “The grassiness of rhum agricole balanced by the herbaceous flavor of Suze helps create a complex but easy-drinking Daiquiri-inspired cocktail.”


If you're interested in watching a quick cocktail demonstration on the Pennington Daiquiri, checkout our YouTube channel:


Final Thoughts


Suze is seriously fun. I love it with lemon or something citrusy to complement herbaceous goodness. But coming in at only 20% ABV, it is a great extra kick to add to your favorite boozier drinks. Add a splash to our next Old fashioned or martini, and please, report back.


Sending bright yellow love,

Shen


#WhiteNegroni

#gin

#LilletBlanc

#blancvermouth

#Suze

#PenningtonDaquiri

#rhumagricoleblanc #brandy

#Cognac #lemonjuice #honeysyrup #simplesyrup

#deathandco

#gentianroot

#apertif

#bitterliqueur


For most American wine consumers, Greek wine is as mythical as the demi-god Hercules. American consumers aren’t familiar with the names of Greek grapes or regions, which can make buying Greek wine a challenge. Part of the issue is that Greek wines have not been as plentiful on US soil as Italian and French wines. However, that problem is primarily due to Greeks consuming an astounding 95% of their native wine. With the limited number of Greek wines reaching our shores, most American consumers couldn’t find quality wines worthy enough to make an impression. For example, here in Texas, there wasn’t a supply of quality Greek wine until importers like R&R Selections came to our rescue.

Lucky for us, today, more Greek wines are being exported than ever before, especially wines of higher quality. Therefore, it’s important to learn where to seek out affordable, delectable Greek wines. This article will showcase one of our favorite Greek wine regions—the PDO Neméa. If you’re more of a visual person, Teakwood Tavern’s YouTube channel has you covered:



Greek mythology

If you’re a fan of Greek mythology, then Neméa might sound familiar. Hercules, as part of his twelve labors, was tasked with bringing King Eurystheus the skin of an invulnerable lion that terrorized the hills around Neméa. Spoiler alert: Hercules killed the Neméan lion. In ancient Greek paintings or sculptures, Hercules is often depicted wearing a lion skin, which is believed to be from the Neméan lion.


© Maria Daniels, courtesy of the University of Pennsylvania Museum


Because of Hercules' ties to Neméa, the wines of PDO Neméa are often nicknamed the Blood of Hercules.


Greek wine laws

Greek wine laws follow European Union guidelines for geographical indications. One tier is Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). The next tier is Protected Geographical Indication (PGO).


© Domaine Skouras

PDO Neméa

The PDO Neméa was established in 1971. Neméa is located on Peloponnese, the large peninsula that hangs off the Greek mainland by the narrow Isthmus of Corinth. Neméa is about 20 miles southwest of Corinth. Neméa is the largest PDO in Greece with approximately 3,000 hectare under vine.Currently, there are no official subappellations within the PDO Neméa. However, there are villages or zones that have garnered attention due to their unique terroir.

Places like Koútsi, Asprókambos, Ancient Neméa, and Psari reflect the diversity of Neméa with varying altitudes, exposure, and soils. These villages are known for high elevation, even though some are higher than others. Asprókambos, for example, has vineyards planted at 2,800 feet above sea level.

Neméa is often described as being comprised of three zones based on altitude—valley floor, mid-elevation, and highest. The valley floor is known for basic wine. The mid-elevation has been the source of quality wine in the past, often in a richer, dramatic style. The highest zone, with some vineyards as high as 2,950 feet above sea level, is the area to shine in recent years. Still, the majority of wine is blended from several zones.

The only grape that can carry the PDO Neméa designation is Agiorgitiko. There are other grapes grown in the regions, but they must carry the broad Peloponnese designation.

Soil

Neméa is known for its marl and deep red soil. Marl is a calcium carbonate mud, which contains variable amounts of clays and silt. Marl provides exceptional drainage, which helps limit yields. Limestone is also prevalent throughout Neméa, but often deeper in the soil. The lowlands are very fertile, which is why this zone is known for bulk wine. The soils of the mid-elevation zone are shallower and rockier. The highest zone has the greatest amount of marl.

Climate

Generally, Neméa has a warm Mediterranean climate. But the vineyards in the higher altitudes are considerably cooler.


© Yiannis Karakasis


The grape—Agiorgitiko

If you see a bottle labeled PDO Neméa, then it must be produced from the varietal Agiorgitiko (Ah-yor-yeé-ti-ko). The word Agiorgitiko translates to St. George so it is often referred to as St. George’s grape. Agiorgitiko produces small, thick-skinned berries. Delicious primary red fruit (e.g., strawberry and red cherry) is a common characteristic in most representations. When grapes are left on the vine to ripen longer, black fruits emerge as well as higher tannins.

Wine styles

There is a plethora of wine styles produced in Neméa, which can make it difficult to know what you’re buying. Wines may be dry, medium sweet, and sweet. They also range from light, fruity, and immediately approachable (i.e., drinking window up to six years) to full-bodied, age-worthy (i.e., able to exceed ten years). Wines can be anywhere from medium bodied to full-bodied.

According to Master of Wine Yiannis Karakasis, there is a growing trend amongst producers to create red wines with more finesse. We are thrilled with this trend. We prefer this style of reds in general. Many of the lighter wines are made by carbonic maceration, which extracts color from the grape but little tannin resulting in soft wines full of fruit.

Food pairing

Since Neméan wine is produced in many different wine styles, it’s not feasible to give pairing advice for every type wine. Thus, I’ll focus on wine we’re more likely to come across in the states, which is dry wine. Because of Agiorgitiko’s natural high acidity and the elevation in Neméa, it is a wonderful food wine. Pay attention to the alcohol because that will hint at the body of the wine. For wines under 13.5% ABV, pair with duck, poultry, tomato sauces, and cherry sauces. For wines with higher than 13.5% ABV, pair with steak, burgers, lamb, and richer sauces.

The future of Neméa

Things are looking bright for the PDO Neméa. According to Jancis Robinson, more high-tech wineries are being established in Neméa than any other Greek region. There is also an influx of young winemakers who have studied abroad, typically in France or the US, and are bringing advanced winemaking techniques to this historic region. The quality of wines will likely increase with this flood of capital and human talent.

Wines we tried for educational purposes


Domaine Skouras, 2017 Saint George Aghiorghitiko, Nemea $19


This dry wine was full of fruit and easily approachable. On the nose and palate, we found strawberry, raspberry, cranberry, sage, nutmeg, and cedar. Acidity was medium plus, and the tannins were medium. It was a medium-bodied wine with 13.5% ABV. The finish was in the low 20 seconds, which is perfectly fine for a $19 wine.



Domaine Skouras, 2014 Grand Cuvée, Nemea $34

This dry wine is Domaine Skouras’ next tier up from the wine mentioned above. The wine burst with flavors and aromas of cranberry, red cherry, blueberry, violet, earth, tobacco, baking spices, and anise. The acidity was medium plus and the alcohol was 13.5% ABV. The tannins were medium plus and elegant. The wine was medium-bodied and very well balanced. The delectable finish lasted in the low 30 seconds.



Palivou Estate, 2016 Single Vineyard Selection, Nemea $24

This dry wine was the biggest and boldest of the three. The tannins were high, and the alcohol was 14.5% ABV. On the nose and palate, we found cinnamon, black plum, black cherry, mushroom, licorice, asparagus, and lavender. The acidity was medium plus. The wine was full-bodied. The aggressive finish provided a finish in the low 30 seconds.


Final thoughts


We are always seeking out unique wines that don't get enough love but also don't break the bank. Greek wines definitely fit this profile, especially the wines from the PDO Neméa. We love the high acidity and fruit forwardness that these wines showcase. These are wonderful food wines, and there is a range of styles you could play with for pairings. Keep the lower alcohol versions in mind when you are planning your Thanksgiving meal!


Sending big fat love,

John


#redwine

#greekwine

#DomaineSkouras

#SaintGeorge

#Aghiorghitiko

#Nemea

#PalivouEstate

#PDONemea

#bloodofhercules

#carbonicmaceration

#Peloponnese

#RRselections





On March 29, 2020, we posted our first article on this website, which was based on the cancellation of our March 28th wedding due to COVID-19. Like most sane people, we had no idea what to expect in the months to come. Personally, what would our risk tolerance be for dining out and traveling?

All these months later, we can confirm that our risk tolerance towards dining out and traveling has been nonexistent. Well, that is until we took the trip that forms the basis for this article.


We finally decided to rip off the Band-Aid and go on a road trip in search of cooler weather and the ability to dine outside comfortably. We booked a weeklong getaway in Ruidoso, New Mexico, where the average high in early September is 75°F and the average low is 54°F. That’s quite a change from DFW, which boasts an average high of 92°F and average low of 72°F in early September.

Before we left DFW, we set parameters for engaging with the outside world. We embraced outdoor dining; yet, we avoided dining indoors. We also avoided ridesharing. Those two rules resulted in an itinerary full of daytime adventures outside of the cabin and nighttime tomfoolery in the cabin. That's quite a change from how we would vacation in the past.


In the past, our vacations would be built around bars and restaurants. We’d map out destinations and hail a Lyft/Uber to shuttle around. Ah, simpler times. How I miss thee.

Don’t get me wrong, we had a blast on this trip. But we approached packing in a novel way due to the circumstances. With that in mind, below is Teakwood Tavern’s guide to packing for a road trip during COVID-19. If you prefer watching a video over reading, the following video summarizes most of what is below. But we recommend you continue reading if you want all of our tips and tricks.



Why go through this effort?

First, rental units rarely provide quality culinary and barware items. It’s not in the owner’s best interest to provide expensive items that may be broken, lost, or stolen, and thus require replacement. Honestly, that’s an understandable position. Yet, it’s not plausible to bring your entire kitchen and bar to make up for the rental’s inadequacies. Our packing tips focus on items that have one or more of the following attributes: enhance your experience (e.g., quality wine glasses), provide efficiency (e.g., knives), and minimize overall luggage without sacrificing luxuries (e.g., batch cocktails).

Second, COVID-19 has affected the hospitality industry and how we patron bars and restaurants. That begs the question: How do we adapt our travel habits during these crazy times?

One way to adapt is to plan on spending more time at your rental. Thus, pack with the intention of maximizing your vacation experience at your lodging. This guide does just that. The information is broken down to sections regarding bar supplies, batched cocktails, wine, kitchen supplies, food, and miscellaneous. Our hope is that you find few gems throughout this guide.

Kitchen Supplies

In our daily lives, we’re often exhausted after work and come up with excuses for not cooking. On vacation, cooking reinvigorates us because we have nothing but time. I’m not advocating for you bringing every pot and pan from your kitchen, but there are smallwares that travel well and help your efficiency in the kitchen.

Knives are the most important of all kitchenware when traveling. Even expensive rentals provide shitty, dull knives. Plus, dull knives are dangerous and inefficient. Who needs that on vacation? Not us. Since Shen and I cook as a pair, we bring two chef’s knives. A paring knife also comes in handy for certain tasks, as do kitchen shears, which are useful outside of the kitchen too.

To transport knives, we recommend purchasing a knife bag. Back in the day, we carried our knives in kitchen towels, but no more. These bags are relatively inexpensive and transport more than knives (as discussed below).



Resealable, zipper storage bags take up very little space and are clutch for leftovers. Bring multiple gallon size bags and pint size bags. Trust us, these always get used.

A sous vide might seem like an insane item to bring, but the Joule has earned its place in this travel guide. Toss a couple steaks in a Ziplock, plop the bag in the water, and get on with your vacation for a few hours without worrying about overcooking your steak. Also, it's quite small, and negates any poor performing appliances. That’s perfect vacation cooking.

If you plan on grilling or baking protein, we suggest bringing a meat thermometer. I don’t think we’ve ever come across one in all our stays.

Food

After a long drive, the last thing we want to do is fight a crowded restaurant for dinner. Still, there’s no need to pack an entire week’s worth of food. Other than the first night’s meal and a few small items, you should purchase the vast majority of your groceries at your final destination.

For the first evening's dinner, we prefer a low maintenance meal that still packs flavor bombs. A cheese and charcuterie board is a good case in point. Head to your best cheese monger and grab a few of your favorite cheeses. We recommend bringing a variety such as a goat, aged, blue, and hard. Toss in a few meats and perhaps some påté to round out the two stars of the show. A small, unopened jar of mustard doesn’t require cooling during the ride, which is a plus. When it comes to crackers, we consider the packaging because broken crackers will break your heart once it’s time to sit down and make a plate. Buy crackers that can withstand traveling. To transport the cold items, which is only the cheese and meats, a small, well-insulated cooler does the trick.



The only other mandatory food staples we bring are pepper and quality salt. Often, the rental has neither one. Or they have giant cheap containers of iodized salt, which results in me buying another unnecessary carton of decent salt. Now, I fill a small kitchen container with salt. A small, inexpensive disposable black pepper grinder is also a highly appreciated addition.

While not quite making the mandatory list, we often bring a small (e.g., 5 ounce) bottle of olive oil. It no longer shocks me that a renovated kitchen with beautiful fixtures is not stocked for actual cooking.

If you bring a sous vide, consider bringing vacuumed sealed proteins. We buy steaks the day before departure, seal them, and freeze them for the journey. Then you let them thaw in the fridge overnight, and bam, gourmet dinner on night #2.

Bar Supplies

Before we discuss wine and cocktails, let’s talk supplies: everything from glassware to vacuum pumps for open bottles of wine!

We love glassware, whether it be for wine or cocktails, because glassware enhances our enjoyment. Glassware improves the taste of wine, and we appreciate how amazing cocktails look in a coupe or Nick & Nora glass. Shen and I usually bring four wine glasses and two cocktail glasses. For wine, this allows us to enjoy two wines at once (e.g., a red and white with dinner). For cocktails, we don’t double fist often enough to necessitate a second set of cocktail glasses. Or, at least I'm not going to admit it publicly.



To transport glassware, we recommend two options. First, if you’ve retained the original box that encased the glassware when you bought it, then you can use that to transport the glasses. If you’re a normal person (i.e., not like us), then you likely don’t store original boxes. What to do then, huh? Well, that's when you buy a glassware travel bag, like this one from Riedel. Beyond vacations, we use our Riedel travel bag for dinners at local BYOB restaurants. Maybe not so much recently, but it will be there when we need it again. Hopefully, sooner than later.

Other wine tools that we pack include a waiter’s corkscrew and a vacuum pump with bottle stoppers. Nothing is more frustrating than bringing a kick-ass bottle of juice with you on vacation and then finding yourself holding a wine opener that is a relic from the 1930s. I’m all for vintage, but not at the expense of pulverizing a cork into a million pieces and watching those pieces float in the wine. Plus, a waiter’s corkscrew takes up very little space. But what happens when you don’t finish that bottle of wine? That’s where the vacuum pump and stoppers come into play. As we discuss below, we firmly believe that you should bring exciting wines on vacation. So don’t let those opened wines oxidize. Pump the wine and have the confidence to open it later on the trip knowing that it is still in good shape.


For making cocktails, we bring a stainless-steel shaker, strainer, and jigger. While a shaker is generally used for, wait for it, shaking drinks with ice, it can also tackle stirred drinks. For the latter, we use the large tin in lieu of a mixing glass. The strainer is useful for both shaken and stirred drinks so that you can separate the cocktail from the ice. Lastly, a jigger is essential for measuring your cocktail ingredients properly.

If you plan on using citrus in your cocktails, then a citrus press is a fantastic tool to bring. Remember, juice is best fresh! Plus, you can maximize juice extraction with a citrus press.

Other miscellaneous items that you could bring, but aren’t as important as those stated above, are a bar spoon (that cabin must at least have a spoon, right?), a channel knife, and vegetable peeler.

Lastly, we transport all of these bar tools in the same knife bag that we discussed above.

Batch Cocktails



Batch cocktails are a genius way to enjoy quality cocktails without lugging your entire home bar. The picture above reflects the three batch cocktails we brought (minus a few consumed drinks). Compare those three bottles to the nine (seven bottles of liquor and two bottles of bitters) that it would have taken if we made those cocktails on site. Talk about saving space without neglecting your cocktail game!


Batching cocktails is not inherently complicated, but there are a few components you must master to pull this trick off. Lucky for you, we wrote an entirely separate post all about batched cocktails here.


Wine

While variety is paramount when packing wine for a trip, there are a few considerations to make when selecting wines. Considerations like alcohol by volume (ABV) and specialty bottles will guide you to a memorable wine vacation.

ABV is our biggest concern. And not because we are scared of getting drunk. Rather, we prefer lower alcohol wines earlier in the day or without food and higher alcohol wines with food. Thus, we bulk up on medium alcohol (i.e., between 11% and 13.9% ABV) wines. Still, there is always room for a few high alcohol (i.e., 14% ABV and above) wines.


Vacation is a perfect time to pop that bottle(s) you’ve been saving for a special occasion. Trust us, it will taste that much better when it’s enjoyed in a state of leisurely bliss. This doesn’t mean that you have to break the bank. If you're normal, everyday wines are in the $15-$25 range, then splurge on a few $25-$35 bottles.

Miscellaneous

The following items might take a backseat to those stated above, but they are worth bringing. Hydration packs help you recover faster after a solid day of drinking. Skip the emergency room, and a case of E. coli or salmonella, by bringing a clean sponge. I don’t know what the last person was using that sponge for, and I don’t want to find out. A digital media player (e.g., Amazon Fire TV) allows you to easily steam your favorite TV shows on the road (without the worry of forgetting to log out). Games, like cards, hardly take up any room and bring hours of fun. A small, portable speaker provides ambiance.

Final thoughts

Do I expect that everyone will follow these steps verbatim? Hell no. Only a crazy person would pack like this. Well, a crazy person and his equally crazy wife.

Still, my hope is that every reader departs this page with one new tip that will enhance his/her next vacation. If you are an oenophile, maybe traveling with glassware resonates with you. If you love to cook, a knife bag might be in your future.


Regardless of what tip makes the most sense to you, I wish you safe and incredible travels. But seriously, if nothing else, bring hydration packs.


Sending crazy, but hydrated, love from the road,


John