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The Freewheel line with a couple of English friends.

It takes a lot of beer to keep the wine business running smoothly. Here in Redwood City, we are very fortunate to have a great English style ale producer right in our backyard: Freewheel Brewing Company. The staff of K&L are fictures at our local pub, and it is a rare moment when one of us isn't there having a pint and a bite of their excellent food. We are also lucky enough to be the first place to offer their bottled beer for sale. If you have never had it, the Freewheel Brewing "FSB" Freewheel Special Bitter, California (500ml) is the benchmark in fresh, balanced, smashable ale. We will do our best to keep some in stock for you, the customer too!

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Veuve Clicquot "Rich" Rose Doux Champagne Cocktail

Everything you need except for ice and big glasses!

Champagne cocktails are delicious. It took a lot of loosening up to get me to try them in the first place, but just like with sabering bottles, once you try it, it is too fun to stop. This week I made the staff a simple, two ingredient after work drink with the Veuve Clicquot "Rich" Rose Doux Champagne ($64.99) and some very nice hibiscus tea from Kusmi. Kusmi is a Parisian tea company, and the tea I used they call their Aquarosa, and it is based on an Abyssinian pink tea. The Champagne just arrived, and is composed of 45% Pinot Noir, 40% Meunier and 15% Chardonnay, with 16% of the total red wine made from Pinot Noir. It is dosed at 60 grams per liter of sugar, making it a Doux, the sweetest classification for Champagne. In the first half of the nineteenth century, it was not uncommon to see Champagne with twice as much sugar as that, while now many Bruts are made with less than 6 grams per liter.

Here is the recipe:

2 teaspoons of Hibiscus tea + 1 teaspoon extra for presentation (I used Kusmi Aquarosa)

10 oz boiling water

1 bottle of Veuve Clicquot "Rich" Rose Doux Champagne

Six large Bordeaux or Burgundy glasses (I like Bordeaux shape best since it is easier to get ice in!)

5lbs of high quality ice

At least two hours ahead of cocktail time, steep the hibiscus tea for five minutes covered with boiling water. You will have leftover tea, but the larger quantity will make a more even steep. Strain the tea, and cool in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

In the bottom of each glass, add a pinch of hibiscus tea from the extra teaspoon for presentation. Then add one tablespoon of the finished and cooled hibiscus tea to the glass. Load the glasses with ice, letting them heap up at the top. Plenty of ice is one of the best tricks for any great rocks drink! Add the Rich Rose slowly, pouring a small amount in each glass. It will foam up a lot, so go from glass to glass, evenly splittling up the bottle into the six glasses.

Bottoms up!

The cocktail turned out great, and the sweetness of the Champagne was tempered by the tannin of the tea and the drink was well balanced. The violet color from the combination of the rose Champagne and small amount of hibiscus was something to see. If the ice wasn’t there to slow down my gulping, it would be a dangerous drink indeed. This is fun stuff to play with, and I am sure that my many Champagne cocktail loving friends and customers will come up with even better recipes. It seems that the very integrated sweetness of a high dosage Champagne is better in cocktails than adding sweetener to a drier one after some considerable experimentation.  Try it out and see what you think!

A toast to you!

Gary Westby

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