Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 Champagne Trends Greet New Years Eve

As New Years Eve approaches, Amelia Sauter looks back at a few of 2011’s trends in bubblies: Cava, rosé, and classic cocktails.

Cava is the new champagne. I heard it on NPR, so it must be true. Cava is the term for sparkling wine made in Spain the old fashioned way á la méthode champenoise, which calls for secondary fermentation in the bottle. If you find yourself staring at the selection of sparklings in a liquor or wine store, you can’t go wrong with a Cava, and you might want to buy it while it's cheap; Cava’s quality is often superior to its champagne counterparts in the $8 to $12 range.

Second, rosé is back. Up until recently, the last effervescent rosé I drank was a Bartles and Jaymes wine cooler in 1988. This year when the clock strikes midnight on December 31, I’ll be toasting the arrival of the 2012 with a local Finger Lakes sparkling wine, Goose Watch Pinot Noir Brut Rosé. A close second in my book: Dibon Rosé Cava, which we occasionally pop open at the Lounge and guzzle in the kitchen.

Lastly, classic cocktails are still center stage, and the Champagne Cocktail is one that will never die: sugar, bitters, and champagne; a perfect ménage a trois. And if you make it with a Cava or a rosé (or both), your friends will think you're the trendiest person in town.

For a locavore Champagne Cocktail recipe, check out Amelia's post on Edible Finger Lakes.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Santa Loves his Egg Nog

A public service announcement brought to you by Santa.
(cartoon by Amelia Sauter copyright 2011)

We are open on Christmas Eve from 6pm-midnight! Spiked nog, homemade cookies, and the Festivus cocktail. Come be cheerful and/or scrooge with us.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Give the Gift of Death

You may not have known this, but proprietress/bartendress/blogger-in-chief Amelia Sauter writes funny stuff and draws slightly morbid cartoons in those extremely brief periods of time between working, drinking, and sleeping (once known as "having a life").

Now you, too, can laugh in the face of Death every day. Twelve of her favorite Death cartoons have been compiled into a Year Filled with Death 2012 Wall Calendar. The Death calendar brings a morbid humor to brighten even the darkest of days, with Mr. Death taking on fashion, dating, chocolate, weather, taxes, holidays, and more.

She thanks you for supporting her Sharpie addiction, and her love of fine wines and cheap beer.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Drinking Thanksgiving Leftovers

Google “Thanksgiving cocktails,” and you’ll find oodles of recipes. But can you make a cocktail out of Thanksgiving leftovers? Read my latest blog post over at Edible Finger Lakes magazine's website to find out which of your turkey day foods can be turned into a delicious drink. (I swear it's possible.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Reviving the Apricot Sour

This month's Mixology Monday topic, Retro Redemption, kinda has me stumped. Jacob Grier at Liquidity Preference describes the 1950's-1990's as the Dark Age of Mixology, and challenges us to revive a drink from the "lost decades."

The problem is, I wasn't drinking yet. At least not anything worth reviving. Rum and cokes, Fuzzy Navels, jello shots, Budweiser. A teenage girl's best friends, until she throws them up. Today, I can't even be in the same room as Peachtree schnapps, and the dreaded rum incident got a dedicated humor column written by me on Angstgiving exactly two years ago this week.

History makes me crazy. For the love of Dale*, I can never remember where classic drinks came from, who made them, and why. Some cocktails are best forgotten, like my ex-boyfriend.

But family heritage is my notable exception. Be it stories or objects, I saved everything my parents ever gave me, like the pair of red knee socks with white hearts my mom bought for me over twenty-five years ago. Though they’ve faded and the elastic is long-gone, causing them to bunch around my ankles and slide into my shoes, I still wear them every Valentine's Day.

When Leah and I opened the Lounge, my parents passed on to us their 1974 Mr. Boston Bartenders Guide (53rd printing). I flipped through the classics, but what caught my eye were the handwritten recipes penciled inside the back cover. Tequila sunrise. Daiquiri. In my dad’s script, Margaritas: Fill a blender halfway with tequila and the rest of the way with half triple sec and half either limeade, or pop plus Rose's lime juice. And then there was my mother’s favorite drink, recorded in her slanty handwriting: the Apricot Sour.

Reading the recipe, I could taste it in my memory, its tart flavor known intimately to me from eating the liquor-soaked maraschino cherry left at the bottom of her glass. The trick to making a good one? Use fresh-squeezed lemon juice instead of sour mix, and make sure to add that splash of orange juice. Try it; I bet you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Apricot Sour

1 ½ ounce apricot brandy
1 ounce orange juice
¾ ounce lemon juice
a few drops of maraschino cherry juice
maraschino cherry

Fill a Collins glass with ice. Add brandy and juices. Stir. Garnish with maraschino cherry.

*Dale DeGroff, a master mixologist credited for the revival of "classic cocktails."

No, you're not crazy. If this blog post seems familiar, it's because portions of this column were previously published on this blog.

Visit Liquidity Preference to see the roundup of Mixology Monday cocktails worth reviving from around the world.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

All The Gin Joints

To celebrate the release of Michael Turback's latest book, All the Gin Joints: New Spins on Gin from America's Best Bars, Felicia's Atomic Lounge is holding a book release party on Wednesday, November 2, from 7pm-8:30pm. The two local cocktails featured in the book with both be featured *live* at the party: The Gin-Gin by Leah Houghtaling of Felicia's Atomic Lounge (gin, ginger-lemongrass syrup, champagne) and The Communist by Eric Trichon at Mercato Bar and Kitchen (gin, Cherry Heering, fresh-squeezed juice). Copies of the book with be available for sale during the event, and Michael Turback will be on hand to sign books and informally discuss his latest endeavor, over cocktails, of course.

And you're a lucky duck, because it's also Locavore Wednesday, which happens in the middle of every week. $1 off all seasonal locavore cocktails (like our Hot Spiked Cider made with cider from Kingtown Orchards in Trumansburg, and the Beet Bubbly made with beets grown at Stick and Stone Farm, only a few miles from the Lounge) and $1 off all New York State beers.

If you can't make it to the party, copies of All the Gin Joints are also available locally at Buffalo Street Books.

Buy local, drink local.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Imbibe Magazine and Felicia: BFF's

Imbibe Magazine is one of Felicia's BFF's. The go-to mag for all things drinkable, Imbibe partnered with Metaxa in a cocktail contest that Leah placed third in; and they published one of Leah's drunken coffee recipes on their website. Now that coffee recipe can hang out on your coffee table like a living room whore because it is included in Imbibe's very first cocktail book, published this month: The American Cocktail. This nifty book contains 50 creative and accessible recipes collected from smart bartenders around the states. We are honored to be included.

And with the book, an idea was born at our kitchen table, over cocktails, of course: This winter, Leah and I will "Cook the Book," or as one might say in cocktail-speak, "Drink the Book." While the snow flies, we hope to drink our way through all fifty cocktails and write about them on the blog as we go. This should be particularly interesting because of my freakish allergies and my lame-o substitutions when I can't have an ingredient (or two or three).

Will we succeed in Drinking The Book? Depends. No. Maybe. Probably not. Why not? Perhaps we'll only make a few, or perhaps we'll make them all. It is entirely possible that we will get distracted by raking leaves, broken toilet handles, the carpenter ant infestation in the wall at home, shoveling snow (noooooooo!), paying the bills, holidays, weddings, Pittsburgh Steelers games, drinking, playing music, and life's other joys and woes.

But we're going to start on the right track, and at least pretend that we're going to successfully Drink the Book. So here's our first cocktail: The Verde Maria (pictured above), which revolves around avocado. I chose the Verde Maria as our first Drink the Book recipe because it is green, and because the ingredients were kinda weird but kinda mouth-watering at the same time, like guacamole in a glass.

Because we couldn't get our hands on tomatillos, and because I can't eat onions (eyes swell here for emphasis), we didn't quite get it right. However, Leah liked the texture a lot (avocado-tequila smoothie, anyone?). A pinch of salt helped bring out the flavors.

Since we can't publish the full recipes from the book, you have two choices. One is to buy a copy of The American Cocktail and follow along. The other is equally exciting: check back here in the near future and we will post a new drink created by Leah that was inspired by the Verde Maria.

Imbibing and inspiration: Yes. Bring it on. Cheers.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Teeny Pies

I know it's been a few years since I made and sold pies at the Lounge, which has ruined some people's lives beyond repair, but good news: Teeny Lamothe is in town.

Teeny is traveling around the United States and studying with experienced bakers so she can start her own pie business, and she's blogging about her travels at During October, she's hanging with the Emmy's Organics people in Ithaca.

Last night, we got to sample some of Teeny's goods, and they were pretty damn good. Her pumpkin and sweet potato pies were both so creamy-dreamy that they didn't need any whipped cream on them. The crust was intensely flavorful, tasting as much like dessert as the filling. Her flour is locally grown at Farmer Ground Flour in Trumansburg, NY, and she purchased her produce at the Ithaca Farmer's Market.

On Fridays during October, Teeny will be selling her teeny pies (perfect for one person!) from 6pm-7pm at the Lounge. Later, when Teeny is famous and has published her pie memoir, you can say you knew her when. Bring your lactaid pills; these pies are not dairy-free.

For those reading this post who are not in Ithaca: keep an eye on Teeny's blog; she may be coming to a city near you.

In other Lounge-related locavore news, Wide Awake Bakery continues to drop by during most Friday happy hours with their amazing fresh-baked bread, and our farmers at Tree Gate Farm have pigs for sale this month. You can buy a whole or a half pig, and have it butchered into whatever cuts you like. We met them when they were piglets. They were so darn cute, and I bet they'll be so darn tasty.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Best of Ithaca 2011

"You can't possibly be surprised," said the editor of the Ithaca Times when he called to tell me that Felicia's, once again, had been voted Best Cocktail in Ithaca by the Times' readers.

Surprised, no. Reassured, yes. We aim to please, and the votes tell us we are pleasing the people. It's always affirming to get good feedback, to know patrons like what we pour our hearts into, to hear that we're still the only ones in the region making cocktails with fresh, crazy ingredients straight from nearby farms.

Not that anyone else would want to do what we do. I spend hours picking mint, lemon balm, sage, and cherry tomatoes; visiting orchards; and popping in on our farmers at Tree Gate Farm. Leah spends a boatload of time in the kitchen, infusing, muddling, and cooking up new concoctions. Our bartenders work their butts off: For every cocktail the staff shake up, they could easily pop the tops off of ten beers.

But the end result is sooooo worth it. Thank you, Ithaca, for your confidence, and for your continued commitment to drinking the good stuff.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Flight of the Concord

This month's Mixology Monday topic, hosted by Alcohol Alchemy, is Local Color. Usually I'm anal retentive about following the Mixology Monday instructions each month, so I made sure our cocktail used local ingredients, and it sure is colorful.

Except after Leah created the drink and took an awesome photo, I realized my rebel side once again shoved my straight-and-narrow side off a speeding train. I did not start with a local craft spirit as instructed. Oops.

I haven't always been this impulsive, really. Okay, maybe I have, but I'm still firmly in denial, so I'll blame Leah.

Here's the story: We belong to a most excellent local fruit CSA this year (after swearing off vegetables when the veggie CSA forced one too many parsnips upon us). In this week's basket, we received peaches, plums, pears, apples, and concord grapes.

Grapes. Yum. But they're kind of tart, and the skins get stuck in your teeth, and they have annoying seeds. No way I was going to labor to take all the seeds out and make a pie, appealing as the end result might be.

Then in came Leah. And out came the ball jar. In went the grapes and gin. Out came the muddler.

Minutes passed: The gin turned a peaceful lavender. Hours later: A ball jar full of deep bruised purple. The next day: The Concordian took flight.

[In retrospect, obviously I'd use a local gin to follow the Mixology Monday rules. The most popular gin made in the Finger Lakes region of New York (maybe the only gin? i've yet to hear of another) is Finger Lakes Distilling's Seneca Drums Gin. I've written about their gin before, in both cocktail form and via a general review. And we've showcased their cherry liqueur, which hands down is our favorite FLD product at the Lounge. You can read more about Finger Lakes Distilling HERE.]

The Concordian

1 1/2 ounces concord grape-infused gin*
lime wedge

Fill a rocks glass with ice. Add grape-infused gin. Top with tonic. Garnish with a lime.

*Concord grape-infused gin:
1 lb Finger Lakes concord grapes
32 ounces gin
Muddle and let sit for 24 hours. Strain.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

AlleyArt: Stars by Laura Robert

Laura Robert's art installation in Felicia's Alley this year is designed to dance with the Alley lights, resulting in whimsical, dangling "stars." Like many of Laura's creations, the hanging art is crafted from found trash/treasures, usually from the beaches of Cape Cod.

This is Laura's third show at Felicia's (her first and second shows are also described on our blog with accompanying photos), and by far the one that is most intimately connected to the atmosphere in the Alley. The show will run through September 27.

Join us for a closing reception on September 27 from 5pm-6:30pm, and take some "stars" home with you.

Felicia's Atomic Lounge hosts outdoor sustainable alley art shows in the warm months, featuring a different artist every month. Artwork made with a minimum of 50% recycled/reused/repurposed materials is preferred. Proposal guidelines can be found here:

Monday, July 11, 2011

Beer Mimosa

Maybe I'm too lazy, or maybe I'm too busy, but whatever the reason, I simply haven't jumped on the beer cocktail bandwagon yet. Leah's definitely had her hands full with incoming produce from our awesome farmer: scapes, black caps, and soon, plums.

Those black cap (black raspberry) cocktails are CRACK. We've gotten a lot of people completely addicted to them, and now they want, want, want and we sell, sell, sell. Stop by the Lounge this week for a fix.

But back to beer. Typically, I'm a purist. I like my gin on the rocks with no mixer, my wine in a glass with no spritzer, and my whiskey swigged straight out of the bottle. Beer is no exception. So when Frederic at Cocktail Virgin (Slut) announced that this month's Mixology Monday theme is beer cocktails, I knew I had some work to do.

Or not. Because the day before I read Frederic's post, I actually made a beer cocktail. It wasn't on purpose. I was just too lazy, I mean, busy, to go out and buy champagne when I had a craving for a mimosa. I opened the fridge, and next to the orange juice was a can of PBR, beckoning me to take a risk.

Ice cold PBR and orange juice. Weird, or genius? It worked for me. The recipe is complicated. so pay attention:

PBR Mimosa, aka The Lazy Girl

orange juice
champagne flute

Open the can of PBR. Take a swig from the can. Fill your champagne flute halfway with PBR. Chug some more beer from the can. Add orange juice to the PBR in a champagne flute, take a sip, and proclaim loudly, "This is the shit! It tastes just like a mimosa. Who needs champagne?"

Monday, June 13, 2011

Local Notes

Hey! I forgot to tell you that about the cute little pictorial-cartoon review we got in the Cornell Daily Sun in March. A talented gal named Maggie Prendergast draws a weekly column (that's right, she draws the column) about local food joints.

You can see the Felicia's review/cartoon from March 31 here:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bitter About Flowers

Welcome to Mixology Monday! Okay, you caught me. Today is actually Tuesday. I waited until the eleventh hour to write my post, and then company showed up and we drank a bottle of 2009 Cotes Du Rhone instead. As a result, my writing skills rapidly deteriorated into giggles and yawns. Hazelnut coffee in hand, I begin my belated post a day late and a bottle of wine lighter.

Hosted by Dave at The Barman Cometh, this month's Mxmo topic is floral cocktails. Rhubarb is NOT a flower, so despite the fact that I just picked fifteen pounds of it and will start shaking up Rhubarb Martinis at the Lounge tonight, rhubarb is not what I am going to write about.

I am also not going to write about violets, though I spent an hour picking them yesterday. They are destined to become violet syrup, and eventually a blueish cocktail of some sort.

And I'm not writing about the exploding purple lilacs in my yard. Stunning and tasty as they are, for now I'm simply going to snort them, and maybe float a few in a drink as garnish.

Instead, the topic of my post is lavender bitters. Leah started making her own bitters a few summers ago: orange bitters, coffee bitters, lavender bitters and soon: rhubarb bitters. Usually I don't like lavender in my beverages because I feel like I'm drinking massage oil or lotion, but the lavender scent dances gracefully with the already floral essence of gin, turning an everyday drink into a culinary delicacy.

When it comes to the commercial stuff, I'm bitter about bitters: There is absolutely no reason to include the artificial and potentially harmful caramel color (Peychaud's, Fee Brothers, Angostura), Red #40 (Peychaud's, Fee Brothers), or Yellow #6 (Fee Brothers). And bitters that are chemically produced in a factory down the street from you are NOT "locavore." You drive me crazy when you buy a bottle of mass-produced bitters from the Super Walmart and proclaim them "locavore." You want locavore? I'll give you locavore upside your head. Bring it on.

As soon as we mow the lawn, plant mint, stack the wood, fix the windows, replace the ice machine, build new porch benches, install stair lighting, repair the brick steps, and clean out the gutters, we're going to start bottling our own bitters. Get ready: we're bitter and we can make it better.

In the meantime, you can dream about this lavender gin and tonic, but if you want to taste it, you'll have to come to Felicia's:

Lavender Gin and Tonic

1.5 ounces gin
2 dashes of lavender bitters

Fill a rocks glass with ice. Add gin and bitters. Top with tonic. I know, you don't have our lavender bitters - yet. Bookmark this page, drop by to stack some wood, and give us a few months.

Save the date! Rapture Party 5/21/11 from 6pm-close at Felicia's Atomic Lounge. I'll be live twittering the rapture, too. Follow me on twitter at @ameliasauter

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wood Pairing

Dear Felicia,

I know spring is filled with all kinds of great stuff like planting herbs and watching flowers bloom, but I just got a shit-ton of firewood delivered (shit-ton [shit tuhn] - noun 1: five cords; 2: 4ft by 8 ft by 20 ft pile of wood). I'd like to know what alcohol you recommend pairing with this task.

I Want to be Stacked

Dear Stacked,

You are definitely going to want a drink for this job. Think wood. A high-end bourbon, a smoky scotch, a nicely-oaked chardonnay, or a tannic cabernet saugivnon. Or go rugged and do a couple of shots of Jim Beam; that's one of my work boot favorites. Beer also pairs well with wood. There are some great scotch ales on the market, like Oksar Blues Old Chub. If it's raining, consider a boilermaker.

You're going to need all the help you can get.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mixology Monday: Tomato Zinger

I am so excited that it is Spring. Please reassure me it's not going to snow again so I don't impulsively buy a plane ticket to Cancun where I can suck in tropical sun and tropical cocktails until I explode into a million droplets of warm joy.

Because Felicia's likes to use raw materials in our cocktails, Spring is a critical time of year for us and for our favorite farmers at Tree Gate Farm. This weekend, I cut back the mint and oregano, and planted a bunch of rhubarb roots to meet your unquenchable demand for Rhubarb Martinis. We transformed over 20 lbs of rhubarb from Tree Gate into martinis last May! I'm feeling piggish as I reminisce, and must confess to you that I found a pound of last summer's rhubarb in the freezer yesterday and cooked it with some sugar, then proceeded to eat it all right out of the pot. Forgive me. I'm sorry I didn't share. (Okay, I'm not sorry. If I found another pound right now, I still wouldn't share it. Seriously, Rhubarb and I are monogamous.)

As we dive face-first into Spring, Mixology Monday this month is hosted by Spirited Remix. Chris asked everyone to post about their all-time most amazing cocktail creation, and later this week he will put all of those cocktails on his website so head over there to check it out.

I'll be honest with you, I'm not a great cocktail maker. When it comes to our fresh philosophy, Leah is the one who you'll find in the kitchen making something unusual with coriander syrup or cucumbers or whole vanilla beans or fresh horseradish or wild ramps or lovage from a neighbor's garden. I'm more tame in the cocktail creativity category, and content to be her taste-tester.

But a couple of summers ago, I actually created one drink that I fell truly, madly, and drunkenly in love with: the Tomato Zinger. Since it requires fresh-picked cherry tomatoes, I tend to forget about it in the winter. Last week, however, Leah and I taught a cocktail class at Tompkins Cortland Community College and played a version of Chopped that we called Shaken. We asked the students to create cocktails using three required ingredients: cherry tomatoes, rosemary, and limes. All the resulting drinks were delicious, but I was left pining for summer and for another hot affair with the Tomato Zinger.

Don't tell Rhubarb I'm cheating on her.

Felicia's Tomato Zinger

5 small Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes
pinch of sea salt
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce honey syrup (equal parts honey and water)
1 3/4 ounces gin

Muddle four cherry tomatoes, sea salt, honey syrup and lemon juice. Add gin and shake with ice. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with the remaining cherry tomato.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Craft Cocktails

When I hear 'craft,' I think feathers. Beads. Pipe cleaners. Felt. Sock puppets. What the hell is a craft cocktail?

The adjective 'craft' does, in fact, refer to cocktails that are handmade, though not with a glue gun. In 2006, a smart bartender guy named Camper English made a list of some of the elements that he believed earned a drink the title 'craft cocktail' in San Francisco:
  • fresh juices
  • muddled fresh ingredients
  • seasonality
  • cocktail-food pairing
  • fancy shmancy mixers instead of el cheapo soda guns
  • infusions
  • homemade ingredients, like syrups or bitters
  • an actual drink menu
If the craft cocktail is vintage or classic, it's extra cool. If it has a good name, like the Horny Ninjarita, it's extra-extra cool. If it contains bacon, it's extra-extra-extra cool.

Beware. Like hipster fashion choices, some of those craft cocktails are overrated. Many of them can't be created at home unless you quit your day (night) job, invest in weird ingredients, build a complicated home bar, and install a commercial kitchen.

And seriously: Have you actually tasted a drink with bacon and liked it? Or even more telling, liked it enough to have seconds? The idea is fun, but in reality, not so good. Just like hipster eyeware and men with skinny jeans: Those giant eyeglass frames and teeny pants that sag in the manbutt might be interesting style concepts, but they both look pretty comical when you put them on. In twenty years, your kids will be laughing at you, not with you.

Fresh is good; handmade is awesome. Sock puppets rule. But don't go overboard. Glue guns can be addictive, and your craft obsession can quickly grow out of control and take over your life. STAY AWAY FROM PLASTIC FLOWERS. And never get so snobby about your drinks that you can't enjoy a Natural Light beer when your neighbor offers you an ice cold can.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year: Beets and Drinks and Drunks

A new floor for a new year

My mom sent me an email last week to let me know Felicia's made Rochester's daily paper again. The topic this time was drinks without alcohol.

This is a hard one for me. I find it's not possible to re-create the flavor of bourbon or gin without, well, bourbon or gin. If I'm not imbibing alcohol, I go for simplicity. Give me some plain seltzer water and I'll be happy. Leah bought me a home soda machine for Christmas and I shrieked like a little kid when I opened it. A box full of happy for only $99.

When the writer for the newspaper contacted us, Leah and I suggested substituting sparkling cider or sparkling grape juice for champagne in mimosas or mimosa-like drinks. The writer was drawn to our spiced beet bubbly, and said:

This recipe came to us by way of Amelia Sauter of Felicia's Atomic Lounge in Ithaca, where seasonal, locally grown ingredients are on the bar with the booze. In winter, that means Finger Lakes beets. Even if you are a fan of beets (which Sauter was not before her cocktail chef Leah Houghtaling changed her mind with this concoction), roasting them and then making a simple syrup with them is a lot of work. Double or triple the syrup recipe and save some for later. It will stay fresh in the refrigerator for at least a week.

I love how Leah is called "my" cocktail chef. I'm a lucky girl, aren't I? I own a cocktail chef AND a soda machine. Truth be told, Leah is the creative force behind Felicia's and I am her devoted pawn who also happens to answer all emails and media requests. But the best part is that I get to taste-test all of her concoctions.
It's also true that until the spiced beet bubbly, the only beets I ever loved were the ones specially prepared by my mother.

Here's a link to the full article on non-alcoholic bevvies in the Democrat and Chronicle:

Happy new year and don't drink and drive like this passerby who flipped his car outside the Lounge on New Years Eve:

And to answer both of your questions:
1) No one was hurt.
2) Nobody, including the driver, seems to be able to satisfactorily explain how exactly he ended up upside down in the middle of the street.