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Sage & Spice: Christine Dionese Talks AcroAma Blends and Her New Book On Craft Cocktails

Friday, 06 December 2013 15:44

The Best Craft Cocktails Christine Dionese Jeremy LeBlanc By Justin Penoyer

Last week I had the opportunity to catch up with medical journalist and food writer Christine Dionese from Garden Eats about her new book, The Best Craft Cocktails & Bartending with Flair: An Incredible Collection of Extraordinary Drinks.

Christine and her co-auther, Jeremy LeBlanc from the award-winning ALTITUDE Sky Lounge in San Diego, Ca., feature AcroAma Tex-Mex Blend in a lovely whiskey and wine cocktail known as Sage & Spice.

Now, whiskey and wine happen to be my favorite libations; but more than that, I loved the cleverness and utility of using our seasonings in crafting cocktails so I had to reach out to Christine and Jeremy to get to know the story.


Justin: What an intriguing drink (Sage & Spice)! The red wine, orange, and cinnamon bring to mind hot mulled wine, but then you take me in a whole new direction with rye and Tex Mex spices. I've never seen some of these ingredients used together and am curious as to your inspiration for this cocktail?

Christine: Jeremy and I would sit and talk about our favorite food and drink pairings. When you love food and drink as much as us, I suppose you can almost taste the flavors as you discuss them! That's exactly what Jeremy and I would do. For this one, like most of our other recipes that we created, it happened rather organically. Jeremy is a bit of a whiskey aficionado and I'm nostalgic- we were talking about cocktails we'd love to prepare for the holidays. I said, "let's create something with citrus and cinnamon and pull in those flavors with the depth of a red wine with a long finish..." And almost before I could finish that sentence he said, "with a Southern twist- a whiskey that can pack a punch- a cocktail people will enjoy drinking after dinner." And voila, we took it from there. The (organic) Bonterra wine has an oaky, vanilla finish- naturally the Bulleit Rye with its complex spices, honey and vanilla notes fit into the picture perfectly. To complement the sweeter notes I knew the sage, thyme and coriander of the Tex Mex Blend would create a savory surprise. Although we did not intend it to be served as punch, we just heard from some friends in Kentucky that their guests enjoyed it whipped up as a post-dinner punch.

Justin: You use AcroAma Tex Mex Blend in your recipe, which flavors are you looking to introduce or accentuate?

Christine: The vanilla and more oaky flavors of the wine and rye can be very rich- they need a companion not necessarily to dampen their effects, but rather balance them out. We found that the sage and coriander were perfect for this! We have to bet the lemon within the Tex Mex blend also played a role in bringing the more savory flavors out.

"Plain" is not a word that is ever used in my test kitchen. We are forever experimenting over here. When Jeremy and I made our Italian Old-Fashioned for guests at a party recently, we improvised by adding a kick of your Mediterranean Blend to "spice up" the sweeter side of things. We think the Herbes de Provence and peppercorns brought up the basil a notch, much to the delight of the guests!

Justin: I'm making dinner for two tonight and starting with a Sage & Spice, what would you recommend I serve as an ideal pairing?

Christine: Since the colder season has arrived, a hearty meal is in order. For your meat eaters, duck roasted with sage and citrus on top of root vegetables and romanesco comes to mind. And for a less rich, but equally as hearty dish, a Shepard's Pie with sweet instead of white potatoes and ground cashews and candied walnuts for the filling instead of lamb or beef.

Justin: Excellent, Shepard's Pie is one of my favorite meals. I'll follow up and let you know how dinner turned out, thank you Christine!

Sage & Spiceimageedit 19 2010498765

Yields 1 cocktail

2 blood orange wheels, 1 for garnish
2 oz/60 ml rye (we like Bulleit for this recipe)
1 dash AcroAma Tex-Mex Blend
1 oz/30 ml pinot noir (we like Bonterra for this recipe)
1 cinnamon stick for garnish

In a dry Tin Play tin, muddle blood orange and rye. Next add 20 pieces of ice (or 1 scoop of a 16-ounce/475 milliliter shaker), AcroAma Blend, pinot noir and shake for a count of 15. In a large cocktail glass half filled with ice, strain and pour. Garnish with blood orange and cinnamon stick.

The Best Craft Cocktails & Bartending with Flair: An Incredible Collection of Extraordinary Drinks available locally and at Amazon.com

 About Christine

ChristineDionese1Native New Yorker turned Californian, Christine, is an integrative health care specialist, medical journalist and food writer. A natural born rebel and personal choice advocate, Christine’s strong sense of social dynamics drives her to explore and discover the best ways to attain total wellness whether it’s in a clinical setting or around the dinner table. She’s dedicated her career to helping others understand the science of happiness and its powerful affects on everyday human health. An expert in integrative medicine, Christine is shaping the way health care providers will treat their patients as alternative medicine drives into the mainstream.

Popularized by health care professionals, patients and mindful modern thinkers, her blog, Reaching Beyond Now features a socially conscious take on integrative medicine and the future of lifestyle design. Check out her organic gardening and food therapy blog and business, Garden Eats to learn more about seasonal kitchen gardening and medicinal culinary therapy. 

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