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The Flight of the Cacao Cocktail

The Flight of the Cacao Cocktail



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The Flight of the Cacao cocktail.

What do you get when you hand a bottle of the new Black Grouse whiskey to a proclaimed New York City mixologist and say, "Make me what you will"? A fantastic tasting cocktail. Frank Cisneros of the Gin Palace whipped up this sweet cocktail that highlights the whiskey's smokiness with a bit of citrus and — you guessed it — crème de cacao.

Ingredients

  • 2 Ounces The Black Grouse
  • 1 Ounce lemon juice
  • 1/2 Ounce housemade frenadine
  • 1/2 Ounce Crèeme de Cacao

Directions

Shake and strain into a coupe.


Bywater

It’s hard to believe we have been doing this for nearly a year now. Who would have known that when I made that first drink for my birthday in 2020, that we would still be here making daily drinks in 2021. There’s something to be said for that, foolish consistencies being what they are and whatnot. I’m gonna take a note from those early drinks and go short on the philosophizing and long on the drink making, so please won’t you join me now as we stand and make the Bywater.

When I hear that name I am immediately put in mind of the Shire and the favorite watering hole of the short of stature and hairy of foot, the Green Dragon Inn. For many years, we darkened the door of it’s real world counterpart in Murfreesboro with its amazing beer and mead selection, the “Flight of the Nazgul” featuring nine beers for mortal men and “Hobbits Only“ bar for the wee folk. Sadly, they closed their doors for the last time recently. Of course, this drink would never have crossed their bar, since they did not serve hard liquor. This one was actually created pretty close to the real world’s Bywater, by Chris Hannah at Arnaud’s French 75 Bar in New Orleans. It seemed like a good birthday choice, since I recently acquired its hardest to find, in the states at least, ingredient, Amer Picon. More accurately, I tracked down a small bottle of the house made Amer Ticon from Atlanta’s Ticonderoga Club. I said I wasn’t going to ramble too much, so let’s get to the making and the tasting.

Grab your mixing pitcher and toss in 1 2/3 ounce of rum, it’s a special day so I went with my cherished Havana Club 7 year 3/4 of an ounce of Amer Ticon, 1/2 an ounce of Green Chartreuse, 1/4 ounce of Velvet’s Falernum and 2 stabs of Peychaud’s Bitters. Add ice and give it a slow, reverent stir to the beat of Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I saw Your Face” which was Number 1 on the charts on this day 49 years ago when I made my own debut. When well chilled, strain into a rocks glass and garnish with a luxardo cherry.

This is every bit as good as I had hoped it would be. I am thankful to have found that Amer Ticon, so I could finally try this one. The rum makes a lovely base for those other super flavorful and complex ingredients. There is a lot going on here, the herbal elements form the chartreuse and the amaro really play well together, to the point I am not quite sure where one ends and the other begins and the falernum just ties it all together like the Dude’s rug. A wonderful drink, happy birthday to me, indeed.

On this day last year, I decided to make myself a Trinidad Sour and document it, since I could not go to Corsair. It would be another week or so before I would start making and writing about cocktails most every day, but that drink really was the kick off. Of course, I was much more concise in those early posts. What can I say, I don’t really have a plan, some days there are lots of words, other times I am only slightly less verbose. Thank you to everyone who has stuck with me so far, reading these shouts into the darkness, offering kind words of support. It means a lot to me, really. The best I can tell, this marks our 340th drink together and I still have some gas in the tank, a bunch of drinks on my list of things to try and way more alcohol than any home bar should have, so we are going to keep going. Seriously, my home backbar now outstrips lots of real bars in quantity and quality. That’s ok, it’s good to have a hobby and a voice whenever there is something that needs saying. It has been quite the learning experience and I am eternally grateful for everyone who has helped along the way, with guidance or knowledge or ingredients or just a kind word to let me know that people are actually reading the words. Cause I get it, there are so many words. So before I turn off the lights and go grab some cake, let me also throw a huge thank you to Laura and Liam for their support, encouragement, constant help and forbearance as the collection of ingredients, tools, glasses, cocktail books, gadgets and gizmos galore has steadily grown to overtake every spare bit of space. For their patience when I had to stop what we were doing in order to make a drink, take pictures and then write for however long it took to find the words. Like usual, they make all the sacrifices and I get all the credit, but I could not, and would not want to, do this without them. So thank you to them and to anyone who has bothered to read all the way through, it has been a hell of a ride and I look forward to the next chapter. So…stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.

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The Flight of the Cacao Cocktail - Recipes

The “Batini” (a blend of “bat” + “martini,” although the drink contains no bats or gin or vermouth) is the official drink of Austin, Texas. In 2004, the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau declared it so (yes, over Dr Pepper and beer). The drink is made with Tito’s Handmade Vodka, an Austin company. Each September during “Batfest,” a Batini-making contest is held on the Congress Avenue Bridge, home to thousands of Austin’s famous bats.

There are many varying recipes for the Batini, but they usually mix Tito’s Handmade Vodka with fruit juices.


Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau
Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau Names Official Drink Of Austin
September 2, 2004

AUSTIN, TX-The Four Seasons Hotel Austin mixed a perfectly batty concoction to win the Austin Convention & Visitor Bureau’s first “The Batini: The Official Drink of Austin Contest.”

Judges selected the Four Season’s version of the Batini to celebrate the pairing of two Austin novelties-- the nightly flight of the Congress Avenue bats and Texas’ only distillery.

In the early 1980s, modifications to the Congress Avenue Bridge began attracting migratory Mexican free-tailed bats, eventually making Austin the home to the largest urban bat colony in the world. Each evening at dusk, from late March through October, some 1.5 million bats leave in mass exodus in search of food, consuming 10 to 15 tons of insects each night. The flight is now such a popular tourist attraction that Austin is dubbed the “Bat Capital of America.”

Since 1995, Tito Beveridge (that’s his real name) has produced his Tito’s Handmade Vodka from a distillery in East Austin. Beveridge’s smooth vodka has impressed the most discerning of tastes to win the 2001 Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirit Completion, beating out such better-known brands as Smirnoff, Stoli, Ketel One and Skyy. More accolades followed when Spirit Journal announced that Tito’s was the only vodka in the world deserving of a four-star rating.

“Sometimes someone will come up to me and tell me how much they love my vodka. But then they’ll sheepishly tell me what they like to mix with it. I don’t care what they mix it with. I just want people to try it,” says Beveridge.

It’s in this spirit that the Batini contest was born, giving local hotels the opportunity to mix recipes using carefully chosen ingredients while following two rules: 1) incorporate Tito’s Handmade Vodka and 2) exemplify Austin.

The six participating hotels – The Driskill Hotel, Four Seasons Hotel Austin, Austin Marriott at the Capitol, Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin, Hilton Austin and The Renaissance Austin Hotel shook, stirred and taste-tested until deciding on a final submission for the Batini. Ingredients ranged from a splash of locally brewed Live Oak beer to port and Chambord to hot sauce and cilantro. Garnishes included blueberries, cherries and apples shaped like bats.

The Fours Seasons Austin Hotel’s concept of a dusk until dawn-themed Batini captured the first annual competition.

The 2004 Official Drink of Austin is:

The Batini*
5 oz. Tito’s Handmade Vodka mixed with ½ oz. of Chambord
4 oz. Tito’s Handmade Vodka mixed with ½ oz. of Blue Curacao
3 oz. of room temperature Sangria

Sangria:
¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup cranberry juice
¼ cup apple juice
½ cup red wine (Sangre do Toro preferred)
garnish with a cherry cut into the shape of a “fang”
*serves five

In cocktail shaker take 4 ounces of Tito’s and the Blue Curacao. Shake and strain into five chilled martini glasses. In shaker add another 5 ounces of Tito’s and the Chambord. Shake and strain very slowly down the side rim of the martini glasses. Using a straw, transfer three drops of the Sangria recipe down the rim of each glass. The effect is a layered dawn and dusk. Garnish with cherry. Before serving, swirl the Batinis to enjoy the metaphoric flight of the Austin bats.

Food Network
Batini Black Recipe courtesy The Four Seasons in Austin
Show: Giada’s Weekend Getaways
Episode: Austin

2 ounces vodka (recommended: Tito’s Handmade Vodka)
1/2 ounce blue curacao
10 fresh blackberries
Splash simple syrup
Splash grapefruit juice
Splash Champagne
Blackberry and bat-shaped mint, for garnish

Add vodka, blue curacao, blackberries, simple syrup and grapefruit juice to a martini shaker and shake vigorously until the drink turns a deep purple. Strain into a cocktail glass and top with a splash of champagne. Garnish with a blackberry and a bat-shaped mint.

Tito’s Handmade Vodka
September Update
The “Batini”, is the winning drink every year at the City of Austin’s “official drink of Austin contest” This drink features our own Tito’s Handmade Vodka. Bartenders from Austin’s top downtown hotels create their own recipe presenting it in front of a crowd of thousands and a panel of celebrity judges. The event is held downtown on the Congress bridge on September 2 during “Batfest”.
(. )
Story
It all started when I went to a watermelon thump in Luling, TX, and my Uncle Phil shared some of his habanero vodka with me. It was cold out of the freezer and hot from the peppers. Really got you going, it wasn’t just the alcohol, those peppers affected you like Chinese medicine. You could feel them in your ears, then your hands and feet. After a few years, I was sitting around thinking about what to give my friends for Christmas and decided to make a case of my Uncle’s concoction. I didn’t stick to my Uncle’s recipe since my step dad said he thought the habaneros had crossed with the bell peppers that year. I tripled up on the peppers. They hadn’t crossed over and the batch was hot as fire. About 250 people drank out of the 12 bottles and kept telling me to get it on the shelf but not to make it so hot! And, That’s how It all began. After starting as a hobby, it went to full time. After talking to a bunch of retailers and distributors. I decided that flavored vodka didn’t sell enough volume. It was then I decided the future was in micro-distilled spirits and so I created martini grade vodka made in a potstill. I tried to raise money and after two failed attempts, built my own stills and bottling equipment and got busy.

When I started this company, I thought I was getting in on a micro-distillery trend. I didn’t know that brands like Knob Creek and Bookers were made by Jim Beam in bulk. As it turns out, it seems like this is one of the only or the only micro-distillery in the country. It is also the first legal distillery in Texas’ history. As a result. the brand gets lots of publicity. I’ve been on CNN, on ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX. Not just once. but many times. I’ve been in many newspapers and magazines including The WALL STREET JOURNAL, NIGHTCLUB-BAR and FORTUNE. They give my handmade vodka reviews like “so luxuriously smooth”, “can go head to head with any of the world’s greats and not break a sweat”, and “a vodka of world class proportions”.

About.com: Austin, TX
The Batini: The Official Drink of Austin 2004 ‘Dusk til Dawn’
From Jacci Howard Bear

In the first annual competition of the Austin Convention & Visitor Bureau’s “The Batini: The Official Drink of Austin Contest,” the winner was the Four Seasons Austin Hotel’s version of the drink. The Batini is a pairing of the nightly flight of the Congress Avenue bats and Texas’ only distillery. One of the rules of the competition, the drink had to include Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

INGREDIENTS:
5 oz. Tito’s Handmade Vodka mixed with ½ oz. of Chambord
4 oz. Tito’s Handmade Vodka mixed with ½ oz. of Blue Curacao
3 oz. of room temperature Sangria
Sangria: orange juice, cranberry juice, apple juice, ½ cup red wine (Sangre do Toro preferred)
garnish with a cherry cut into the shape of a “fang”
PREPARATION:
Put the 4oz of Tito’s and the Blue Curacao in a cocktail shaker and shake. Strain into five chilled martini glasses. Add the 5oz of Tito’s and the Chambord to the shaker. Shake then strain slowly down side of the martini glasses.

With a straw, transfer three drops of the Sangria down the rim of each glass to produce a pink and blue layered Dusk til Dawn effect. Garnish with the bat fang cherry. Just before serving, swirl the Batinis “to enjoy the metaphoric flight of the Austin bats.”

Austin Chronicle (September 22, 2006)
Batini III
The official drink of Austin contest
BY CLAUDIA ALARCÓN

The third annual Batini contest took place on Sept. 1 during the Austin Bat Fest. One bartender from each of five hotel bars mixed a version of the Batini using Tito’s Handmade Vodka, while another representative presented the drink to the panel of judges. Judging criteria included taste, creativity/originality of the recipe, and presentation (look, delivery, and showmanship). Scoring was on a scale of one to 10, where one equals “bat guano” and 10 is “bat-tastic.” Lucky for us judges, there was absolutely no bat guano this year, and in my book, this was the closest competition ever. I thought all the drinks were well done, and it came down to a close call on presentation.

I loved the Hyatt’s refreshing drink of chilled Tito’s with a splash of pomegranate liquor garnished with a sugarcane skewer with strawberry, melon, pineapple, and mint. The Stephen F. Austin’s Great Balls of Fire Batini was Tito’s infused with melon and jalapeños, shaken and strained into a martini glass, topped with a splash of champagne, and garnished with frozen melon balls and mint. It gave me one of those “wow” moments for its originality and pleasant but assertive spiciness

Austin American-Statesman (September 5, 2007)
Drink Contest loves our bats and our vodka
Lamberts Downtown Barbecue won the fourth annual “Batini: the Official Drink of Austin” contest. Its Batini mixes 1.5 oz. of Tito’s vodka, 1 dash olive juice, 1 dash jalapeño juice, 3 caperberries and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. (Add ingredients to shaker and shake. Pour over cracked ice and garnish with pimento-stuffed olives and a pickled jalapeño.) Sponsored by the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau and Tito’s Handmade Vodka, the contest benefits Bat Conservation International and celebrates Austin’s mega urban bat colony.

Austin (TX) American-Statesman
Ten cocktails to make you forget it’s blazing hot outside
By Patrick Beach
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
(. )
Batini
Four Seasons Lobby Lounge,
98 San Jacinto Blvd.
478-4500 http://www.fourseasons.com/austin
The fundamentalist fire-and-brimstone-spewing Rev. Patrick would pronounce this NOT A MARTINI, but hey, it’s the Four Seasons, nice joint, they can call it whatever they want. The so-called “official drink of Austin,” cooked up by employees Amber Wright and the delightfully named Daisy Undercuffler, has, among other things, a base of Austin’s own Tito’s Handmade Vodka, puréed blackberries and fresh grapefruit juice, topped with a splash of champagne. It’s the thing to have at the bar while waiting for the Mexican free-tails to do their nightly emergence. And if they happen to come out too late to see them, have another Batini and you won’t care as much.

(Trademark)
Word Mark TITO’S HANDMADE VODKA
Goods and Services IC 033. US 047 049. G & S: Distilled Spirits. FIRST USE: 19970103. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19970411
Standard Characters Claimed
Mark Drawing Code (4) STANDARD CHARACTER MARK
Serial Number 77036226
Filing Date November 3, 2006
Current Filing Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1A
Published for Opposition August 21, 2007
Owner (APPLICANT) FIFTH GENERATION INC. CORPORATION TEXAS 12101 Moore Rd. Austin TEXAS 78719
Attorney of Record Michael J. Smith
Disclaimer NO CLAIM IS MADE TO THE EXCLUSIVE RIGHT TO USE “VODKA” APART FROM THE MARK AS SHOWN
Type of Mark TRADEMARK
Register PRINCIPAL-2(F)-IN PART
Live/Dead Indicator LIVE
Distinctiveness Limitation Statement HANDMADE


The Flight of the Cacao Cocktail - Recipes

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeye's fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

Above, Big Apple Corner at 54th Street and Broadway in Manhattan. Google Maps.

Above, John J. Fitz Gerald, from the Aug. 15, 1931, Binghamton (NY) Press, pg. 14.

Listen to Robert Emmerich introduce "The Big Apple," a hit song from 1937. Music written by Bob and performed by Tommy Dorsey's Clambake Seven with Bob on piano. Lyrics written by Buddy Bernier and sung by Edythe Wright. Audio provided by Dorothy Emmerich.

Also listen to a 1937 "The Big Apple" song by Ozzie Nelson and his Orchestra. See a 1929 photo of John J. Fitz Gerald and a 1931 photo of John J. Fitz Gerald.

The “Batini” (a blend of “bat” + “martini,” although the drink contains no bats or gin or vermouth) is the official drink of Austin, Texas. In 2004, the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau declared it so (yes, over Dr Pepper and beer). The drink is made with Tito’s Handmade Vodka, an Austin company. Each September during “Batfest,” a Batini-making contest is held on the Congress Avenue Bridge, home to thousands of Austin’s famous bats.

There are many varying recipes for the Batini, but they usually mix Tito’s Handmade Vodka with fruit juices.


Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau
Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau Names Official Drink Of Austin
September 2, 2004

AUSTIN, TX-The Four Seasons Hotel Austin mixed a perfectly batty concoction to win the Austin Convention & Visitor Bureau’s first “The Batini: The Official Drink of Austin Contest.”

Judges selected the Four Season’s version of the Batini to celebrate the pairing of two Austin novelties-- the nightly flight of the Congress Avenue bats and Texas’ only distillery.

In the early 1980s, modifications to the Congress Avenue Bridge began attracting migratory Mexican free-tailed bats, eventually making Austin the home to the largest urban bat colony in the world. Each evening at dusk, from late March through October, some 1.5 million bats leave in mass exodus in search of food, consuming 10 to 15 tons of insects each night. The flight is now such a popular tourist attraction that Austin is dubbed the “Bat Capital of America.”

Since 1995, Tito Beveridge (that’s his real name) has produced his Tito’s Handmade Vodka from a distillery in East Austin. Beveridge’s smooth vodka has impressed the most discerning of tastes to win the 2001 Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirit Completion, beating out such better-known brands as Smirnoff, Stoli, Ketel One and Skyy. More accolades followed when Spirit Journal announced that Tito’s was the only vodka in the world deserving of a four-star rating.

“Sometimes someone will come up to me and tell me how much they love my vodka. But then they’ll sheepishly tell me what they like to mix with it. I don’t care what they mix it with. I just want people to try it,” says Beveridge.

It’s in this spirit that the Batini contest was born, giving local hotels the opportunity to mix recipes using carefully chosen ingredients while following two rules: 1) incorporate Tito’s Handmade Vodka and 2) exemplify Austin.

The six participating hotels – The Driskill Hotel, Four Seasons Hotel Austin, Austin Marriott at the Capitol, Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin, Hilton Austin and The Renaissance Austin Hotel shook, stirred and taste-tested until deciding on a final submission for the Batini. Ingredients ranged from a splash of locally brewed Live Oak beer to port and Chambord to hot sauce and cilantro. Garnishes included blueberries, cherries and apples shaped like bats.

The Fours Seasons Austin Hotel’s concept of a dusk until dawn-themed Batini captured the first annual competition.

The 2004 Official Drink of Austin is:

The Batini*
5 oz. Tito’s Handmade Vodka mixed with ½ oz. of Chambord
4 oz. Tito’s Handmade Vodka mixed with ½ oz. of Blue Curacao
3 oz. of room temperature Sangria

Sangria:
¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup cranberry juice
¼ cup apple juice
½ cup red wine (Sangre do Toro preferred)
garnish with a cherry cut into the shape of a “fang”
*serves five

In cocktail shaker take 4 ounces of Tito’s and the Blue Curacao. Shake and strain into five chilled martini glasses. In shaker add another 5 ounces of Tito’s and the Chambord. Shake and strain very slowly down the side rim of the martini glasses. Using a straw, transfer three drops of the Sangria recipe down the rim of each glass. The effect is a layered dawn and dusk. Garnish with cherry. Before serving, swirl the Batinis to enjoy the metaphoric flight of the Austin bats.

Food Network
Batini Black Recipe courtesy The Four Seasons in Austin
Show: Giada’s Weekend Getaways
Episode: Austin

2 ounces vodka (recommended: Tito’s Handmade Vodka)
1/2 ounce blue curacao
10 fresh blackberries
Splash simple syrup
Splash grapefruit juice
Splash Champagne
Blackberry and bat-shaped mint, for garnish

Add vodka, blue curacao, blackberries, simple syrup and grapefruit juice to a martini shaker and shake vigorously until the drink turns a deep purple. Strain into a cocktail glass and top with a splash of champagne. Garnish with a blackberry and a bat-shaped mint.

Tito’s Handmade Vodka
September Update
The “Batini”, is the winning drink every year at the City of Austin’s “official drink of Austin contest” This drink features our own Tito’s Handmade Vodka. Bartenders from Austin’s top downtown hotels create their own recipe presenting it in front of a crowd of thousands and a panel of celebrity judges. The event is held downtown on the Congress bridge on September 2 during “Batfest”.
(. )
Story
It all started when I went to a watermelon thump in Luling, TX, and my Uncle Phil shared some of his habanero vodka with me. It was cold out of the freezer and hot from the peppers. Really got you going, it wasn’t just the alcohol, those peppers affected you like Chinese medicine. You could feel them in your ears, then your hands and feet. After a few years, I was sitting around thinking about what to give my friends for Christmas and decided to make a case of my Uncle’s concoction. I didn’t stick to my Uncle’s recipe since my step dad said he thought the habaneros had crossed with the bell peppers that year. I tripled up on the peppers. They hadn’t crossed over and the batch was hot as fire. About 250 people drank out of the 12 bottles and kept telling me to get it on the shelf but not to make it so hot! And, That’s how It all began. After starting as a hobby, it went to full time. After talking to a bunch of retailers and distributors. I decided that flavored vodka didn’t sell enough volume. It was then I decided the future was in micro-distilled spirits and so I created martini grade vodka made in a potstill. I tried to raise money and after two failed attempts, built my own stills and bottling equipment and got busy.

When I started this company, I thought I was getting in on a micro-distillery trend. I didn’t know that brands like Knob Creek and Bookers were made by Jim Beam in bulk. As it turns out, it seems like this is one of the only or the only micro-distillery in the country. It is also the first legal distillery in Texas’ history. As a result. the brand gets lots of publicity. I’ve been on CNN, on ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX. Not just once. but many times. I’ve been in many newspapers and magazines including The WALL STREET JOURNAL, NIGHTCLUB-BAR and FORTUNE. They give my handmade vodka reviews like “so luxuriously smooth”, “can go head to head with any of the world’s greats and not break a sweat”, and “a vodka of world class proportions”.

About.com: Austin, TX
The Batini: The Official Drink of Austin 2004 ‘Dusk til Dawn’
From Jacci Howard Bear

In the first annual competition of the Austin Convention & Visitor Bureau’s “The Batini: The Official Drink of Austin Contest,” the winner was the Four Seasons Austin Hotel’s version of the drink. The Batini is a pairing of the nightly flight of the Congress Avenue bats and Texas’ only distillery. One of the rules of the competition, the drink had to include Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

INGREDIENTS:
5 oz. Tito’s Handmade Vodka mixed with ½ oz. of Chambord
4 oz. Tito’s Handmade Vodka mixed with ½ oz. of Blue Curacao
3 oz. of room temperature Sangria
Sangria: orange juice, cranberry juice, apple juice, ½ cup red wine (Sangre do Toro preferred)
garnish with a cherry cut into the shape of a “fang”
PREPARATION:
Put the 4oz of Tito’s and the Blue Curacao in a cocktail shaker and shake. Strain into five chilled martini glasses. Add the 5oz of Tito’s and the Chambord to the shaker. Shake then strain slowly down side of the martini glasses.

With a straw, transfer three drops of the Sangria down the rim of each glass to produce a pink and blue layered Dusk til Dawn effect. Garnish with the bat fang cherry. Just before serving, swirl the Batinis “to enjoy the metaphoric flight of the Austin bats.”

Austin Chronicle (September 22, 2006)
Batini III
The official drink of Austin contest
BY CLAUDIA ALARCÓN

The third annual Batini contest took place on Sept. 1 during the Austin Bat Fest. One bartender from each of five hotel bars mixed a version of the Batini using Tito’s Handmade Vodka, while another representative presented the drink to the panel of judges. Judging criteria included taste, creativity/originality of the recipe, and presentation (look, delivery, and showmanship). Scoring was on a scale of one to 10, where one equals “bat guano” and 10 is “bat-tastic.” Lucky for us judges, there was absolutely no bat guano this year, and in my book, this was the closest competition ever. I thought all the drinks were well done, and it came down to a close call on presentation.

I loved the Hyatt’s refreshing drink of chilled Tito’s with a splash of pomegranate liquor garnished with a sugarcane skewer with strawberry, melon, pineapple, and mint. The Stephen F. Austin’s Great Balls of Fire Batini was Tito’s infused with melon and jalapeños, shaken and strained into a martini glass, topped with a splash of champagne, and garnished with frozen melon balls and mint. It gave me one of those “wow” moments for its originality and pleasant but assertive spiciness

Austin American-Statesman (September 5, 2007)
Drink Contest loves our bats and our vodka
Lamberts Downtown Barbecue won the fourth annual “Batini: the Official Drink of Austin” contest. Its Batini mixes 1.5 oz. of Tito’s vodka, 1 dash olive juice, 1 dash jalapeño juice, 3 caperberries and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. (Add ingredients to shaker and shake. Pour over cracked ice and garnish with pimento-stuffed olives and a pickled jalapeño.) Sponsored by the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau and Tito’s Handmade Vodka, the contest benefits Bat Conservation International and celebrates Austin’s mega urban bat colony.

Austin (TX) American-Statesman
Ten cocktails to make you forget it’s blazing hot outside
By Patrick Beach
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
(. )
Batini
Four Seasons Lobby Lounge,
98 San Jacinto Blvd.
478-4500 http://www.fourseasons.com/austin
The fundamentalist fire-and-brimstone-spewing Rev. Patrick would pronounce this NOT A MARTINI, but hey, it’s the Four Seasons, nice joint, they can call it whatever they want. The so-called “official drink of Austin,” cooked up by employees Amber Wright and the delightfully named Daisy Undercuffler, has, among other things, a base of Austin’s own Tito’s Handmade Vodka, puréed blackberries and fresh grapefruit juice, topped with a splash of champagne. It’s the thing to have at the bar while waiting for the Mexican free-tails to do their nightly emergence. And if they happen to come out too late to see them, have another Batini and you won’t care as much.

(Trademark)
Word Mark TITO’S HANDMADE VODKA
Goods and Services IC 033. US 047 049. G & S: Distilled Spirits. FIRST USE: 19970103. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19970411
Standard Characters Claimed
Mark Drawing Code (4) STANDARD CHARACTER MARK
Serial Number 77036226
Filing Date November 3, 2006
Current Filing Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1A
Published for Opposition August 21, 2007
Owner (APPLICANT) FIFTH GENERATION INC. CORPORATION TEXAS 12101 Moore Rd. Austin TEXAS 78719
Attorney of Record Michael J. Smith
Disclaimer NO CLAIM IS MADE TO THE EXCLUSIVE RIGHT TO USE “VODKA” APART FROM THE MARK AS SHOWN
Type of Mark TRADEMARK
Register PRINCIPAL-2(F)-IN PART
Live/Dead Indicator LIVE
Distinctiveness Limitation Statement HANDMADE


Hoping for an Unharried Harry'd Halloween

The trick of October is for the monster mishmash of kids'-soccer watching, family apple-picking and pumpkin-patch prowling to lead up to a calm, cool finale: Halloween. For months my three boys, ages nine, seven and three, have plotted their costumes: a Harry Potter Quidditch player, a wizard — not Harry! — and a superhero dinosaur (whatever that is). My plans for what to serve while we carve pumpkins is less set in stone.

Inspiration for last-minute Halloween party treats, Harry Potter-style, came during a quick trip to Florida this week. After all, little wizards need food and drink for fruitful spells. At Hog's Head, a pub at Universal Orlando's Wizarding World of Harry Potter, executive chef Steven Jayson told me Butterbeer, a drink the characters in J.K. Rowling's now-classic series loved, is a favorite among the park's Potter fans. Count my kids as part of that crew — after riding the Flight of the Hippogriff roller coaster, not before. "Butterbeer is nonalcoholic and is served either cold or frozen both versions are frothy and reminiscent of shortbread and butterscotch," he said. Sweet. He's right about the taste given the thousands of drinks they pour daily, but I'd include cream soda in my description too with each sip I tried to pull apart the components, knowing I'd want to stir up some at home.

"Many have tried to concoct Butterbeer, but you can only find the official Butterbeer recipe here in Hogsmeade," Jayson said. "We keep that recipe locked up and secret." Boo! He is understandably protective — the recipe, along with the restaurant menus, took him and a team months to perfect. "Everything had to be true to the fiction, so we referenced all of the Harry Potter books and scoured to find the mentions of some of the favorite foods and drinks." The result? My kids were transported to a magical place even before Halloween arrived. You can order some of the food and drinks online (chocolate frogs or pumpkin juice, anyone?), but I summoned my wizardly powers to conjure a mini menu from the Wizarding World of Food Network to recreate some of the fun.

First up: Aunt Sandy's Magic Butterbeer. The kids in Sandra Lee's family love when Aunt Sandy makes her version of Butterbeer. She serves this microwave-and-blender-made-concoction warm and includes cream soda, butterscotch topping and, you'd never guess it, condensed milk.

A fan on our sister site, Food.com, riffed on the Pumpkin Juice at Universal, which includes pumpkin puree, apple juice, apricot nectar and spice. We tried the real deal at the park and it was delicious, an even more autumnal set of flavors than apple cider that somehow managed to please the kiddos and grownups alike.

In addition to snagging food ideas right from the pages of Harry Potter, you can use places and faces from the books and movies to set a scene. Take, for instance, Duff's Deathly Hallows Creation. Perhaps if you don't have a soccer game to watch or pumpkins to pick you can spend Halloween weekend tricking out a cake to look like the massive Hogwarts castle the Ace of Cakes whipped up.


Gin and tonic gelee

You have every reason to throw a party. There are signs of diplomatic progress in North Korea, America’s Team is undefeated, and both the Sex Pistols and Spice Girls are getting back together (though not to form one band).

But the best reason of all is to show off edible cocktails -- gorgeous jiggly cubes or slices or pyramids that you serve like hors d’oeuvres. They’re making a splash at bars and restaurants and on the party circuit. Everybody’s doing it. They’re passed around on platters at parties, featured on tasting menus or incorporated into desserts.

We’re talking about easy-to-make jelly shots. Envision them at your next soiree: shimmering solid cocktails such as squares of a fizzy jellied gin and tonic, slices of Campari-grapefruit gelee, or cubes of bourbon, Cointreau, lemon and honey.

At Bar Nineteen 12, which opened in August in the Beverly Hills Hotel, a sampler of five jelly shots comes out on a clear, ice-filled glass box lighted from inside: a solid half-dome of blueberry martini with a fresh blueberry suspended in the center a slice of B-52 with layers of Grand Marnier, Kahlua and Baileys a pear martini made with pear puree a mojito shot in the shape of a diamond and a round bubble gum martini.

Inspiration came not from what you might recall as the Jell-O shot, but from the jelly shots served at the chic Bar du Plaza Athenee on Avenue Montaigne in Paris, where you can order other edible cocktails such as “fashion ice” -- cocktails in ice-pop form. At the illuminated bar made of sculpted glass (to resemble an iceberg), slices of layered jelly shots are served on clear glass plates along with long wooden skewers for picking up the gelees. It sounds precious, but the French are onto something.

“The bars in Paris had such an interesting twist on cocktails and how they’re served,” says Philip Spee, Nineteen 12’s bar manager. “And not just at Plaza Athenee,” which is a Beverly Hills Hotel sister property. For research, they checked out other fashionable Paris watering holes such as the VIP Room and Pershing Hall. “There were different densities, different textures to their drinks.” Soon, Bar Nineteen 12 also will serve martini Popsicles, Spee says.

At the month-old dining and cocktail parlor Tailor in New York, cutting-edge bartender Eben Freeman also plans to do “a flight of solids,” three edible cocktails, such as a jellied gin and tonic he has done in the past, served with frozen lime chips and sprinkled with “tonic” powder, a concoction of baking soda, citric acid and powdered sugar, for a fizzy-on-the-tongue effect. “We’ll be doing riffs on the gelatin-based cocktail -- rum and Coke, martinis,” Freeman says. “Really, the possibilities are endless.”

When he was at New York restaurant WD-50 (where the chef serves dishes such as grilled octopus with avocado, juniper and Campari-litchi), Freeman was experimenting with dehydrated rum and Coke and cocktails in paper form, such as a thin, crispy sheet of quince sour made with whiskey, quince and lemon. At Tailor, he says, he’s also working on cocktails in marshmallow form and in cereal form.

“It’s just a different way of thinking about your drinks,” Freeman says. “Hopefully it inspires people to more thoroughly contemplate their cocktail and think about it more seriously.” Seriously? “At the same time, it’s all in the name of fun.”

On the tasting menu at Providence in Hollywood is pastry chef Adrian Vasquez’s take on the jellied gin and tonic, cut into squares and frozen before serving so they get cold and frosty, then sprinkled with lime zest and tonic powder. Vasquez is serving them alongside mojito “spheres.” (These are made with sodium hexametaphosphate, among other things, and not gelatin. Do not try this at home.) For his gin and tonic gelees, he blooms gelatin sheets right in the gin to retain as much of the gin flavor as possible, then heats the gelatin and gin over very low heat so that the flavor and alcohol don’t burn off.

At Craft in Century City, pastry chef Catherine Schimenti mixes Prosecco, simple syrup and vanilla bean seeds with gelatin to make cubes of jiggly-sweet gelee -- a delicious, solid aperitif. She pours the mixture into plastic-lined shallow pans and, once they’ve set, cuts them into cubes. They’re firm enough to pick up and eat but still meltingly tender, a little bubbly and tangy from the sparkling wine, and fragrant and sweet from the vanilla-infused simple syrup.

The beauty of jelly shots is that not only are they easy to make, but they also lend themselves to boundless creativity. Just about any aperitif or cocktail can be turned solid just by adding gelatin, pouring it into a mold, and letting it set overnight in the fridge. Mix the Italian aperitif Aperol with Prosecco and club soda. Or make a layered tequila sunrise -- tequila with orange juice and grenadine. Or a sparkling rose wine with candied orange. Or a Manhattan with a cherry suspended in it.

Add gelatin and you’re ready to entertain. Do take the same care you would in mixing a great cocktail -- and even in considering garnishes -- because all the nuance makes it into the solid version.

“You can marinate the fruit,” suggests Eddie Perez, bar manager at the Foundry on Melrose in Hollywood. “You could do a whiskey sour with little pieces of citrus marinated in bourbon. Or you could add pieces of candied blood oranges. . . . I would stick to the simple. You want them to have a light, clear quality you don’t want them to taste muddy.”

Perez’s edible cocktails for tasting menus are more elaborate: a granite of pear vodka, mixed with dehydrated and finely grated maraschino cherries, topped with pearls of Champagne gelee and fresh Champagne grapes that have been peeled (and some marinated in Drambuie) and sprinkled with lemon and lime zest. They’re served with a spoon.

But no spoon’s required for jelly shots. These aren’t Jell-O shots that come in little plastic cups and are made by adding a packet of Jell-O to vodka. So there’s the matter of getting the right texture -- you should be able to pick them up, like appetizers, with your fingers.

“You want them to be firm, but not too rubbery,” says Bar Nineteen 12 head bartender Matt Martinez. Keep in mind, the longer they sit in the refrigerator, the firmer they get, and they soften a bit as they sit at room temperature.

A rule of thumb when creating your own would be to use one-half to three-fourths of a sheet of gelatin for every ounce of liquid and let it set overnight. (If you’re using gelatin powder, a quarter-ounce packet is the equivalent of four sheets of gelatin.) For strong drinks such as martinis or Manhattans, either make them into small shapes or dilute them with simple syrup (sugar dissolved in an equal amount of boiling water).

You can use relatively inexpensive silicone ice cube trays in fun shapes. (To release the cocktails once they’re set, run the tip of a sharp knife around the top edge, then carefully work them out of the molds.) Or use plastic candy molds this requires running the underside of the molds under hot water to release the jelly. Or just pour the gelatin-liquor mixture into plastic-wrap-lined baking pans and, once set, cut it into cubes or slices. That’s the easiest way.

Arrange them in a beautiful display and you’ve got a cocktail party on a plate.


Review: Flight of the Earl’s Blended Irish Whiskey

Damn I love a whiskey with a grammatical error in its name.

The Flight of the Earls was an event in Irish history, when the Earl of Tyrone and the Earl of Tyrconnell were exiled from Ireland to mainland Europe, an event which ushered in centuries of migrations out of Ireland.

Flight of the Earl’s is an Irish whiskey. So, grammatically: “Flight of the Earl Is?” Or a flight that belonged to the Earl? It’s the best eye-roller I’ve experienced in the world of booze since Coors released Artic Ice beer in the 󈨔s. (Coors later said they misspelled “Arctic” on purpose for trademark and branding reasons… true or not, I’m not so sure about the motivation of the “Earl’s.”)

For better or worse, we’re here to review drinks, not label grammar, and the question of whether you can trust a distiller to pay attention to what he’s putting inside the bottle if he doesn’t know what he’s putting on the label, well, that is left to the reader and the comments section.

Flight of the Earl’s is a relatively standard and straightforward blend, lightly astringent on a nose that offers notes of roasted grains — think hard crackers — and rubber in equal measure. A bit of green banana and a hint of bubble gum give it a distinct Irishness. On the palate, the whiskey is more mellow than the nose would indicate, offering surprising notes of milk chocolate and caramel at first, its sweetness fading into a more cereal-driven character later on, showcasing the underlying grains with greater clarity.

Flight of the Earl’s gets off to a somewhat dull and rocky start, but it’s redeemed in the end by some interesting flavor combinations. Or, should I say “combination’s?”


TERROR IN THE ANDES: The Flight of the Ashaninkas

As The Little Cessna 185 approached the last stronghold of the Ashaninka Indians, the harmony of the heavily forested mountains and spectacular cascades made it possible to forget for a moment the deadliness of the jungle below us. We flew close to a towering waterfall, and barely a minute later reached our landing place, a plateau on the summit of a mountain the native people call Tzibokiroato -- "the place of ants."

I had an idea of what a jungle landing strip should look like, but couldn't see this one until the young pilot pointed it out. It wasn't straight but curved along the rim of an abyss. It wasn't flat either, but full of mounds and depressions. I thought that whatever was going to take place there shouldn't be called a landing but more appropriately an accident.

This was in early September, in the central highlands of Peru. Five months earlier, several hundred Ashaninka Indians, part of the largest group of native people in the South American Amazonian jungle, had been pushed to the mountain redoubt after a succession of bloody attacks by the Shining Path, a Maoist insurgency that controls growing areas of Peru. In August, the Rev. Mariano Gagnon, a salty, chain-smoking 60-year-old Franciscan priest from New England who many years ago welded his destiny to the Ashaninkas, had left the mountain to seek help in Lima, 200 miles to the west. Now Father Mariano, as he is called, was returning to discuss with the natives the momentous decisions they had to make.

The Ashaninka refugees could try to stay at Tzibokiroato, which could be defended. But they would have to fight off the well-armed Shining Path guerrillas with bows and arrows and a few shotguns. They could surrender, but they would face virtual enslavement and forced indoctrination in the Shining Path's rigid Communist dogmas. Or they could disperse in small groups, as some other Ashaninkas had done, hoping that the guerrillas would no longer regard them as a threat. (The Shining Path had sent word that they would stop the killing if the American priest did not return, an unconvincing vow.) Finally, they could try to cross the Andes, to seek refuge in the land of another tribe. But it would be dangerous for even the fittest Ashaninkas to scale the steep mountains.

Just that morning, we learned that the native leaders had reported by radio that the guerrillas had surrounded them. When told that the priest was on his way, they said they would try to hold off the enemy until he arrived.

Later, flying over Tzibokiroato (pronounced tzhee-bo-kir-WAT-oh), we peered anxiously at the huts built on the mountain those on the lower levels had been charred in a recent rebel attack. We were waiting for the Ashaninkas to come out and give a signal to land (or, I thought, to crash). The plane circled several times, as close as possible, but the place was desolate.

We headed back to Satipo, the provincial capital about 50 miles to the northwest. Father Mariano's rough face showed his dejection, and he became more depressed when we flew over what was left of his mission at Cutivireni, for years the communal hub for 5,000 Ashaninkas of the Ene River parish. In the clearing near where three rivers met, only blackened foundations were left of 80 houses -- the former homes of some 700 people -- and 11 other structures.

Like somebody visiting the graves of dear ones, Mariano pointed to the places where some buildings had been: the bilingual school and the smaller chapel, which had been torched by the Shining Path. The generator building and the landing strip, he said, were blown up later in an operation directed by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, which said it wanted to keep cocaine traffickers and guerrillas from capitalizing on what was left of the abandoned mission.

Back in Satipo, we tried to figure out what could have happened. In the morning, the native leaders hadn't given their location, no doubt because the Shining Path monitors radio traffic. Maybe they had evacuated Tzibokiroato. After a couple of melancholy hours, the voice of an Ashaninka leader named Nicolas came over the radio. He sounded nervous, and communication was brief. They were not on Tzibokiroato, but in a fallback place that Mariano knew about. Despite the news, the priest beamed. Tomorrow at 8 A.M. Nicolas would radio again.

The next morning, the native leader reported that the refugees were very worried, their food was scarce. He gave his position -- "to the left of the waterfall" -- and said they had prepared a spot where a helicopter could land. He said they had been chased by the guerrillas the day before, but had shaken loose of them. Tzibokiroato, he said, was now controlled by Sendero Luminoso -- Shining Path. I have known Father Mariano since 1984, when he sought help after his mission was burned for the first time. In August of this year, more desperate than ever to aid the Ashaninkas, he contacted me and a few other journalists, asking us to see the people's plight for ourselves. He gave me his diary and other documents, and over many weeks I talked to dozens of witnesses. This is the story of the Ashaninkas' struggle, based on those sources.

The road that led Mariano Gagnon to the Peruvian jungle began early, in his poor, Catholic upbringing in New Hampshire. He was born Joseph Theodore Gagnon to a French-Canadian mother and a father of French and Iroquois descent. Restless and stubborn, Joseph dropped out of public high school and went to a Franciscan seminary in Callicoon, N.Y. There, he finished high school "with great difficulty," he says, and began studying for the priesthood.

He had already decided he wanted to do missionary work with a native people, the farther away and the more difficult the circumstances, the better. His decision was not unusual: the Franciscans have long reached out to indigenous ethnic groups, especially in the Amazon jungle.

He arrived in Peru in 1948. It was hard for an independent-minded, cussing gringo to adapt to the rigorous Franciscan discipline, but he somehow did it. He changed his name to Mariano -- a not uncommon name in his order -- and was ordained a priest in 1957. Soon, he set out for missions in the jungle.

In the late 1960's, eager for a parish limited to a native people, he began a closer relationship with the Ashaninkas -- Campas, as they are called in Peru -- and was eventually sent to a small new mission at Cutivireni, in the mountainous jungle of the Ene River Valley.

The Peru Ashaninkas (pronounced ah-SHAN-in-kahz), which means "people" in their language, number roughly 20,000 and are scattered over a wide territory in the central jungle highlands. About 5,000 of them were known to have lived in the Ene Valley in the early 1970's. They are nomadic hunters and slash-and-burn farmers, whose basic crop is manioc, an edible root and the mainstay of their diet. They also grow cacao, which provides them with the cash needed to buy machetes, knives, batteries and other essential items. Until the early 1950's, the native groups had been able to maintain most of their traditional area. But outside settlers began moving in, and their land began to shrink.

The missionaries and colonizers who came in contact with the Ashaninkas over the centuries described them as a simple people. "The Campas are childlike," the Rev. Dionisio Ortiz, author of about 10 books on Franciscan missions in Peru, told me. "It is very easy to control them."

Father Mariano bristles at the stereotype. "Yes, they are childlike," he says, "but in the biblical sense, free from pretension, ostentation or calculation. Obviously, these uncommon virtues in a modern society make them victim to many abuses."

Realizing that the colonization pressure was only going to increase, Mariano tried from the outset to persuade the Peruvian Government to create a reserve, closed to other settlers. The Cutivireni area not only had a concentration of Ashaninkas, but also magnificent steep forests and abundant cascades the priest believed should be made into a national park. Though his campaign failed, he helped to preserve Cutivireni as the only Ashaninka land free from colonization.

Unlike most Franciscans, Mariano did not try to make his flock change its traditional ways, even when, as in the case of female breast nudity or polygamy, it offended Catholic sensibilities. He also cooperated with Protestant organizations like the Summer Linguistics Institute, which taught Indians Spanish. Despite his devotion to the Ashaninkas, Mariano never learned their language, communicating instead in Spanish.

Though he could be blunt with outsiders, he was by all accounts gentle toward the Ashaninkas, acting like a mother hen. Photographs show the gray-haired priest -- invariably in shorts, T-shirt and tennis shoes -- tending to everyday chores.

He did make some concessions to the outside world: he tried to teach the people about the market economy and modern technology. "I tried to prepare them for what was coming," he says.

The Cutivireni mission had a bilingual school, farm machinery, workshops and a well-stocked infirmary. Despite the Indians' dislike of large groups, they formed a small town around the mission. They built a plaza, with a much-admired fountain in the form of a lion.

Meanwhile, outsiders continued to settle around the area, and by the 1970's, they had reached the opposite shore of the Ene River. Mariano discouraged contact with the settlers, and while he says he never refused them the sacraments, he chose not to include them in his parish. "The Ashaninkas would have thought that a betrayal on my part," he explains. The colonizers considered him arrogant, and hard feelings arose. "I was probably tactless," he now acknowledges.

In the late 1970's and early 80's, cocaine trafficking boomed in the Ene Valley, as it did all over Peru. The local economy changed rapidly, raising the premium on land-grabbing. The airstrip near the mission, built by the Indians under Mariano's supervision, became increasingly busy, and Colombians appeared. They were considerate toward the priest and offered him a regular "contribution," which he rejected. The Ashaninkas were asked to give up cacao for the more lucrative coca, but Mariano warned that he would leave the mission if they accepted. None of the 700 people in his mission took the Colombians up on their offer.

Coca-growing flourished nonetheless, and in 1983 Mariano decided to tell the authorities. He sent a note to the commander of the Peruvian security police base in nearby Mazamari, and had a conversation in Lima with a United States Drug Enforcement Administration agent. Soon afterward, two drug traffickers visited the mission. They told Mariano the contents of the letter he had sent to Mazamari, and playfully advised him to steer clear of their business.

Mariano decided it was good advice. He never knew who had tipped off the traffickers, but he thinks the leak came from the Lima office of the Peruvian Investigative Police, where the letter had been sent for "processing."

It was already clear to Mariano that his vision of an Ashaninka Arcadia, immune from the world, was not going to be. He realized that a tough struggle for cultural and territorial survival was ahead. But he did not foresee a greater threat to his physical survival and to that of the Ashaninkas. IN MAY 1984, 20 ARMED MEN invaded the mission. Mariano was in Lima at the time, and Brother Pio Medina, an old Peruvian Franciscan, had been left in charge. The assailants looked for Mariano, and told Pio that they intended to kill the American priest.

Then they looted the mission and burned it to the ground.

Mariano heard the news two days later on his way home from Lima, and hurried to Satipo, the provincial capital, where he waited for his Franciscan superior, the Rev. Felix Saiz. The only pilot willing to take them to the mission was flying the plane used by the Colombian traffickers.

When the village Ashaninkas found out that he had landed, they came out of the forest and back to the mission. They saw him standing over the ashes of his lifework, crying. The attackers were never identified. Father Mariano maintains they were settlers and local traffickers who wanted to get rid of him and dislodge the Colombians.

Rebuilding began immediately, but the work was strenuous and the mission was not complete until May 1988. That year, the Shining Path, the shadowy guerrilla movement that had begun fighting "a people's war" eight years earlier, closed in on the Ene River Valley and Cutivireni. Until then, the mission and neighboring area had been on the periphery of the war. But the rebels were spreading north from Ayacucho and southeast from the high Andes, and the valley was in between.

At first, the Shining Path existed only in rumors and in signs of underground organizing and proselytizing, mainly among the settlers, but also among some Ashaninkas. The guerrillas often stay in an area for years before making their move, a strategy perfected by their elusive leader, Abimael Guzman, a former philosophy professor who spent years in Ayacucho organizing students and then Indian peasants.

In June 1989, four armed guerrillas visited Mariano. They didn't try to conceal their identities. They asked for food, tools and other help, which Mariano, knowing the risks of acting otherwise, promptly gave them. They came back several times and asked for more specific things, like sneakers and mimeograph stencils, which he provided. Then they also asked him to recruit young Ashaninkas for indoctrination. Mariano refused, saying he had no authority to do so.

A few months later, as the Shining Path presence became more evident, Mariano decided to take a long-overdue trip to the United States, thinking it might be his last opportunity to visit his homeland.

While he was away, a United States helicopter landed at the mission, carrying Drug Enforcement Administration agents and State Department contract personnel. They had been appearing at the Peruvian police base in Mazamari since the arrival of a dozen or so members of the United States Army Special Forces, who were training the Peruvian paramilitary police. In operations, the Americans and the Peruvians combed the coca-carpeted Ene Valley for clandestine airstrips and laboratories -- which were then blown up. The American presence at the mission, however brief, emboldened some Ashaninka leaders to stand up to the Shining Path. A few even taunted the guerrillas, telling them that if they dared to attack, Father Mariano would call the Americans in with their helicopters to wipe them out.

On Nov. 12, 1989, there were national mayoral elections, which the Shining Path tried to sabotage by attacking candidates and voting places. At the mission that day, Mario Zumaeta, the head of the bilingual school, and other Ashaninkas tore up a red hammer-and-sickle flag the guerrillas had raised and replaced it with the Peruvian flag.

For several days nothing happened. In the meantime, Lucas Adins, a 43-year-old Belgian volunteer who had worked in the Ashaninka region as a medic and agricultural adviser, arrived at the mission. The next Sunday, he was working in the infirmary when the Shining Path entered the mission. Adins directed his companions to sit still and wait. About 60 guerrillas, young men and women armed with submachine guns and assault rifles, detained Adins and the Ashaninka leaders. Unaware of the raid, Mario Zumaeta arrived during the night and was arrested. "Don't make any error or it will be too late," Adins remembers saying to himself. The guerrillas sacked the mission and forced him to drive a tractor to the river with the loot to be shipped to the other side.

The next morning, while Adins was driving the tractor with more stolen goods, the invaders burned the mission. In the afternoon, as he headed back from his last trip, he saw a group of guerrillas walking with three Ashaninka leaders: Mario Zumaeta, Roy Ponce, who was in charge of the mission in Mariano's absence, and Alberto, a schoolteacher. Adins was told to drive them to the river. He knew what was going to happen, and he thinks the prisoners did, too. He was shaking when they reached the river, and was told to put his hands over the wheel and look straight ahead. But he saw the three prisoners being led away, walking with a strangely eager gait, and soon heard seven or eight shots.

The guerrillas came back alone. "You could see by their faces which guys had done the killing," he told me later. He was ordered to drive back to the mission. When he arrived, he was alone amid the smoky ruins.

Adins remained alone for several days. Then, early on the morning of Dec. 2, two American helicopters landed at the mission site with three United States advisers and six Peruvian commandos. They took the starving, distraught Belgian to the Mazamari base, and from there he was taken to Lima. That afternoon, he was debriefed at the United States Embassy.

The Ashaninkas found the bodies of Roy, Alberto and another teacher, probably killed later, several yards apart. Mario Zumaeta's body was never found. But the natives soon heard a horrifying story about his death: Mario had been taken to the settlers' town across the river, where he was crucified, castrated and disemboweled. What remained of his body was stuffed with stones and thrown into the river.

The information came from some mission Ashaninkas who now sided openly with the Shining Path. They were a minority, recruited clandestinely, but now they had the power to enforce their views. Their leaders were a paramedic who had worked at the mission and Nicolas's sister, Claudia. In nearby Ashaninka settlements, several native leaders -- including an evangelical priest and a bilingual teacher -- declared themselves openly as followers of the Shining Path. Evidence of underground organizing became clear, as guerrilla settlements formed rapidly.

The killings continued, and the mission was now almost desolate. A week after the execution of the three leaders, a group of guerrillas returned, looking for other Ashaninkas. They found the village shaman and a few young men. When they asked the shaman about the natives' whereabouts, he retorted that he wouldn't talk with assassins. He was killed on the spot, as were two boys who tried to protect him.

A few days after those shootings, a small Shining Path patrol returned to the mission for the tractor. A larger Ashaninka group, armed with bows and arrows, ambushed them, and most of the guerrillas were killed.

A full-scale war had broken out. As the mission's 700 inhabitants escaped into the forest, they knew they were outnumbered, outgunned and outmaneuvered. If the rebels had come from far away, the natives would have had tactical advantages. But the Shining Path commanded a base among the Ene Valley Ashaninkas and used their captives as slave laborers or soldiers. Other native groups, sensing that the balance of power was tilting to the Shining Path, were careful not to antagonize the guerrillas and tried to reach accommodation. Only those Ashaninkas close to Mariano, now under the loose leadership of Nicolas and another native, Matias, the community's president, actively opposed the Shining Path.

Mariano learned of the killings when he returned from the United States in early December. From Satipo, he was flown by plane over the mission's rubble, and when he saw a small group of mission Ashaninkas, he dropped them a letter asking for news and whether it was safe for him to come back and be with them for Christmas.

He heard nothing. Later he would learn that the natives had sent him a letter with three messengers who tried to reach Satipo on foot. Shining Path guerrillas intercepted them and they were killed. On Dec. 26, Mariano flew over an area near the mission, and saw a group of natives. They made signals telling him not to land, that there was great danger. He dropped them salt and Christmas presents.

The violence grew worse. In February of this year, the guerrillas raided the Ashaninka camp and killed 15 people. Most victims were women and children, because the men were able to run faster. Ashaninkas are no cowards, but they have a different way of waging war. They rely on surprise attacks and ambushes, and the concept of territorial defense is alien to them. If attacked, they will run until they think they have outdistanced the attackers. Then they will counterambush.

In the days that followed, the Ashaninkas managed to ambush and kill about a dozen guerrillas, but they suffered even more casualties. Shattered, they dispersed into the forest in small groups. MARIANO WAS TOLD by informers that if he returned to the jungle, the Shining Path would kill him in a way that would leave a lasting impression on the Ashaninka memory. He had been joined in Satipo by Michel Saenz, a French explorer who had lived among the Ashaninkas, spoke their language, wore the native robes and went barefoot. His emotional attachment to the Indians rivaled Mariano's.

The Americans began to help them, beginning a brief relationship that would soon unravel. Mariano befriended the head of the United States Special Forces group in Mazamari. At first, Mariano saw them as a godsend. Desperate to save the Ashaninkas, he did not foresee conflicts with the United States agenda of the war on drugs.

In mid-March, two American helicopters dropped him and Michel Saenz off at a settlement of Ashaninkas that the Frenchman knew well. The group's leader was clearly worried that the pair's presence put his group in danger of retribution by the Shining Path. A few days later, the helicopters picked them up. Flying back to the base in Mazamari, they passed over the mission airstrip, and Mariano was horrified to see that it had been bombed during the brief time he was in the jungle. He realized then that the same people who were ferrying him were responsible. (The Americans would later say that Mariano had once asked them to destroy the strip, as a way of hampering drug traffickers. He denies it.)

Now, there was no place for a plane to land in the Cutivireni area. "My God!" he wrote that day in his diary, "how much work and sweat went there! More than one year's toil, and now if the Americans don't help us, how are we going to get in?"

Two days later, the helicopters carried Mariano and Saenz to a place where the priest hoped some mission refugee families were. He was right. They found Nicolas and Matias, the community's leaders, and other familiar faces. Uncharacteristically, the Ashaninkas gave free rein to their anguish, crying while they embraced the priest.

As they recounted their tragedies, Mariano saw how thin and gaunt they were. He decided to stay with them, believing that as long as he remained, some people would care about their fate. Two days later, the Americans returned and picked up Saenz, who said he would go to Lima for help. He and Marino agreed it was vital to obtain some shotguns for the natives, who, armed mostly with bows and arrows, were easy prey for the Shining Path.

Every day, more families arrived, as they learned of Mariano's return, and by March 27, nearly 300 Ashaninkas were at the camp. The mood was dark. They knew that the Shining Path was aware of Mariano's presence and that an attack was imminent. Those who had escaped from the guerrillas were the most afraid. Their testimonies about the heavy-handed indoctrination and brutal discipline were chilling.

Alarmed by the extent of Shining Path strength in the valley, Mariano decided to return to Mazamari to seek help. He contacted the base with the two-way radio he had brought with him, and was told he would be picked up shortly.

In the meantime, he tried to improve morale and made plans for a fortified town. On March 29, Mariano, Matias and some other Ashaninkas hiked to a steep rocky hill that they thought would be an ideal place for building. When the inspection was over, Mariano, a slower walker, decided to return to camp first.

Soon after he arrived, there was a sudden commotion. Women and children wailed, and ran around in a panic. They told Mariano that Rigoberto, an Ashaninka who had become a feared guerrilla, and three other armed men were headed toward the site Mariano had just left and where Matias still was. Bellowing commands, the priest sent most of the men to rescue Matias, organized the rest in two ambush parties and sent the women and children to safer ground. He then positioned himself with a pistol and two hand grenades he had brought from Mazamari.

The encounter on the rocky hill was brief. Matias's group fell on the guerrillas, killing Rigoberto and another rebel. A third tumbled over a cliff, into the abyss. The fourth escaped. When the men came back, Mariano praised the fighters and chastised one who had hesitated to use his weapon. Now the priest was a military leader.

A heavy storm moved in that night, and the Indians thought they heard the spirits of the dead rebels wailing in the rain. After waiting all the next day for the American helicopter, Mariano was told by radio that it had crashed. It wasn't known when another helicopter could pick him up.

The Ashaninkas decided to flee. They thought the Shining Path was going to wipe them out at any moment and they were almost mad with fear. They wanted to escape to another mountain, much farther away. There was water there, and fields to cultivate manioc. And because it was difficult terrain even for an Ashaninka, the likelihood of a Shining Path attack was lessened. Mariano resisted the idea, then relented.

At least 230 people began a five-day trek through rainy, slippery jungle up to the mountain called Tzibokiroato. They ran out of food the second day, and, after eating worms -- "green and hairy," Mariano remembers them -- the priest suffered debilitating diarrhea. Throughout the hellish journey, the Ashaninkas kept an even disposition. "Without a doubt, they are the Lord's chosen," the priest wrote in his diary. When they finally reached the mountain in a storm, he saw that an advance party had almost finished a thatched hut for him. He was overwhelmed by this testimony of love and care.

Tzibokiroato could be defended. Most important, the Ashaninkas could carve a short landing strip on the plateau at the summit. For a few days, the priest and the refugees enjoyed the idea of a new beginning. Still, the fear of an all-out Shining Path attack remained. Mariano thought the natives needed to be trained in territorial defense.

He radioed his new position, and on April 10 a Peruvian Air Force helicopter came to get him. Michel Saenz and Luc Adins were waiting in Mazamari. Saenz had brought food and medicine, and some rudimentary shotguns would arrive later. All three felt it was necessary to help the natives adapt to the new place, and they waited for the American helicopters to take them back to Tzibokiroato. THE TRIP WAS NOT to happen. Instead, Mariano received a letter from Father Felix Saiz, his Franciscan superior, ordering him to Lima immediately. Mariano stayed in Mazamari. Six days later, Father Felix's message was repeated: Mariano was to board an American supply plane that was returning to the capital. This time, he had no choice.

In Los Descalzos convent in Lima, Mariano had a long talk with Father Felix, a Spaniard of lively expression and intelligence. Their exchange, while not bitter, reflected a centuries-old debate in the Catholic church.

Was Mariano's presence helpful or harmful to the natives? Felix asked. Mariano argued that, all things considered, it was helpful. Wouldn't it be better if the natives were left alone to decide their own fate? the Franciscan leader said. That, Mariano snapped, would be tantamount to handing them over to the Shining Path.

Father Felix then said he had heard from the American Embassy that Mariano had lost his sense of proportion, that he was organizing guerrilla units. This wasn't the church's calling and would put all missions in Peru, and the church itself, in jeopardy, Felix said. The embassy had also implied that Mariano was responsible for the loss of the downed helicopter and had otherwise cost the United States Government a lot of money.

The Franciscans didn't oppose self-defense in principle. But practicing it, especially with a priest in charge, could only make things worse, Mariano's superior argued. Many priests and nuns at the jungle missions in Peru survived through the daily crafting of a volatile coexistence with the Shining Path. They had to give food to the commissars, and watch helplessly as people were led to their deaths. At one mission, the guerrillas killed an uncooperative nun. Some missions couldn't take it anymore, and were closed. At others, priests and nuns braved great danger every day. They would be hostages if Mariano led a war.

Mariano no doubt knew of another Franciscan concern: reports of human-rights abuses by the Peruvian military. It was feared that if a priest was in league with the armed forces in any way, the cooperation might blunt the church's efforts to press for reforms.

Left unsaid was the wider perspective, held by many Franciscans. They believed that the natives were lost, that they would probably disappear as a culture as so many other indigenous peoples have throughout history. And there wasn't much the church could do, except to trim sails or to retreat altogether -- as it had done before in other times of rebellion. It would wait for peace to return, then resume its ministry with those who were left.

Mariano accepted none of this, and took the lack of an explicit church prohibition as tacit permission to continue his struggle.

He needed a ride back to Mazamari. Despite his growing rift with the Americans, he called the United States Army attache, Col. Robert Froude, who had helped him transport supplies in the past. Colonel Froude told him no planes or helicopters were flying there for several days at least.

The next day, Mariano managed to hitch a ride to Mazamari on a bank's private plane. He arrived there a few minutes before the American helicopters did. And he was told that the supply plane had come that morning and had just left.

The next day, Mariano returned to the base in Mazamari, determined to fly to Tzibokiroato with the two Europeans, Luc Adins and Michel Saenz. But right before a helicopter was to take off, he was told that neither he nor Saenz would be allowed to board. Only Adins was allowed to take off.

The Belgian had begun supplying the Americans with intelligence after they rescued him from the burned mission in November 1989. For his part, he says that more than anything he wanted to get back to help the Ashaninkas. "In the meantime," Adins said of the Americans, "they used me."

Mariano's falling-out with the American Embassy was to some extent a result of his own impetuousness. But he was also the victim of the Americans' involvement in the drug war, and their desire for information about the threat the Shining Path posed to the United States advisers in Mazamari. When Mariano's goals appeared to conflict with the embassy's, the Americans stopped helping him and began to cooperate with people they thought were more reliable and useful.

Embassy officials said Adins was realistic and dependable, while Mariano wanted to drag American assets into a Peruvian internal war. "He wanted the Americans to provide weapons to the Ashaninkas," an embassy official said, "and that once he and Michel had organized them, that we use the U.S. helicopters in the event of a Sendero attack. That was their hope and their game plan."

In May, Mariano wrote a letter to the United States Ambassador, Anthony Quainton, challenging some accusations the embassy officials had been making, including the claim that he was responsible for the helicopter accident. Quainton answered in July, expressing his "highest regard and admiration" for Mariano and denying that the embassy held him responsible "for any costs to the United States Government." By that time, the Army Special Forces had finished its work, and the Americans -- and their helicopters -- were no longer in Mazamari.

Without a helicopter, getting to the natives' bastion in Tzibokiroato was difficult. But Michel Saenz, in an extraordinary feat, flew to the other side of the Andes, crossed the high peaks by foot and walked all the way to Tzibokiroato. As soon as he arrived, he and the Ashaninkas began carving an airstrip. It was finished in mid-July. Soon thereafter, a local pilot, Armando Velarde, flew Mariano to Tzibokiroato. IN AUGUST, MARIANO left Tzibokiroato to go to Lima for more help and to draw attention to the Ashaninkas. I accompanied him on his return to the Ene Valley in early September.

On Sept. 10, two days after our unsuccessful flight over Tzibokiroato, which was now in the hands of the Shining Path, a Peruvian Air Force helicopter took us to the new Ashaninka refuge farther east. It was called Maiobenti, which in Ashaninka means "where it is impossible to pass."

The helicopter descended toward a rocky riverbed between two steep forests. We circled the hillsides a couple of times but saw no signs of life. Then I saw about 60 Ashaninkas standing amid the rocks and boulders. They had materialized out of the forest in no time.

We jumped out of the helicopter, and Mariano embraced some of the natives. With the helicopter engine still roaring, the priest, all fire and action now, conferred with a small group. They listened intently, and then one native and Mariano boarded the helicopter. They took off, leaving me behind.

I stayed with the Ashaninkas for about 20 minutes. Very young women nursed babies they were feeding intensely, as if to quicken the pace of life. When the helicopter came to fetch me, neither Mariano nor the Indian were on board. As the pilot began the return trip, I asked him where they were. He pointed behind, to the fading Maiobenti mountains.

I reflected on what I had seen. When the people saw Mariano, their expressions seemed a mixture of joy and pain. They obviously loved him and expected help from him. But they also knew that the Shining Path would attack with a vengeance as soon as they learned of his presence. And the Ashaninkas had probably concluded by now that their priest's noble intentions were greater than his means. MARIANO HOPED TO persuade the Ashaninkas to stand their ground. But they had no more fight left. They told him that about 400 guerrillas attacked them in Tzibokiroato in mid-August, soon after he left to go for help in Lima. The Shining Path, now an equal mixture of hardened Andean rebels and Ashaninka natives, had overpowered them after an all-night climb and burned most of the new huts. The rebels also sabotaged the landing strip, and would have annihilated the refugees if a small party of Ashaninkas had not ambushed their enemy's rear guard. About 20 guerrillas died, including Claudia -- Nicolas's sister -- and some other Ashaninka converts. The natives fled from Tzibokiroato, but it was not long before the Shining Path found them and attacked again. Some of the Ashaninkas were killed, and the rest broke up into small groups and fled into the forest.

The Shining Path now controlled most Ashaninka communities. From about 500 families, the rebels could mobilize at least 1,000 natives, and it didn't matter whether they were eager or reluctant fighters.

The refugees, by contrast, now totaled 213. They had 18 shotguns with scant ammunition and a few hand grenades, which Mariano had brought them. And they were starving because they hadn't been able to tend their manioc fields for almost a year. Hunting was poor, and they subsisted mainly on snails and worms.

They had decided to try to escape over the Andes, to the territory of the Machiguenga, 125 miles east beyond the mountains. They knew that only the fit had a chance to make it, so they decided they had to kill the babies and younger children, and to leave the infirm behind.

Mariano told them that he would try to arrange the exodus, if they promised not to resort to infanticide. They agreed, and he contacted the Peruvian Air Force by radio. He asked for an airlift, to carry the refugees over the Andes peaks to the Urubamba River Valley. The air force answered the next day that it couldn't help, and would return only to pick up Mariano.

But Armando Velarde, the young private pilot who had aided Mariano in the past, signaled that he was willing to help with his little Cessna. So, Mariano and the natives decided to march back up to Tzibokiroato, where a plane could land, and to try to hold it for four to five days until Velarde could fly them out. They hoped the guerrillas would need longer to mount an all-out attack.

They began the trek, fortified by a breakfast of invertebrates as well as some condensed milk, which Mariano brought with him. It was two days of endless climbing and precipitous descents. Heavy rain made the river crossings hazardous. For Mariano, it was a punishing ordeal. He suffered several painful falls and arrived at Tzibokiroato exhausted.

But the rising rivers proved a blessing, preventing the Shining Path from swiftly moving to attack them. In one day, the Ashaninkas had fixed the crude mountaintop airstrip, and Armando Velarde managed to land his Cessna on the afternoon of Sept. 15.

He took Mariano back to Satipo, where they arranged an airlift of the refugees with a priest of the Dominican order, which ran the Catholic missions in the Machiguenga region where the refugees would resettle. Velarde would fly in and out of Tzibokiroato, with logistical help from a single-engine plane from Wings of Hope, a philanthropic organization. He would have to make the flights over the 14,000-foot peaks without oxygen masks and navigational help. He also had to count on the weather to remain cloud-free, a remote possibility, since the Andes cordillera stays cloudless for only a week or so a year.

The evacuation began early on the 16th, and on the very first flight, disaster almost struck. Unknown to anyone, part of the Cessna's tail stabilizer broke as Velarde landed in Tzibokiroato. When taking off with the first group of Ashaninka women, the plane suddenly plunged into the abyss. Amid his passengers' screams, Velarde throttled the engine, pressed his knees tightly on the rudder control, and somehow maneuvered the plane out of the canyon. He headed to Mazamari, instead of over the Andes. "After two minutes, my legs were numb," Velarde said afterward. "After 10 to 15 minutes, the pain seemed unbearable." The flight took 35 minutes, and after an emergency landing, he rolled out onto the ground, racked by nausea and stomach cramps. But the plane was repaired, and he was ready to fly again.

The next day, he made 20 trips across the Andes, carrying five or six natives from Tzibokiroato each time. Winds were strong, increasing the danger. The next day, he made 22 flights, and on the third he finished the evacuation. Wings of Hope made two flights to Tzibokiroato, but mainly ferried fuel for Velarde's Cessna. The mountains, normally swathed in clouds, remained clear for three consecutive days. Some thought it was a miracle. "What do you think a priest is for?" Mariano asked, using an unprintable adjective.

Almost all the refugees -- 169 people -- had been evacuated. The few remaining chose not to go. They dispersed, saying they would make the trek another time. The Ashaninkas relocated to Machiguenga land were greeted warmly and given a largely unoccupied territory upriver. The prospect of settling down, of planting manioc and of forgetting the bloodshed, at least for a while, made them happy.

With broad smiles and sunny faces, they set off up the river on Sept. 22. They waved to Mariano, who, after 22 years, was finally leaving his mission and the Ashaninkas, probably forever. The people would now be under the care of the Dominican order, which wanted a clean break between them and their priest.

He waved goodbye, vision and remembrance mingled together. He saw Matias and Nicolas, and Capitan, who had lost his wife and three daughters to the war, and then remembered Mario Zumaeta and Roy Ponce and all the others. And as he bid farewell, he cried, and as he thanked God, he mourned.


RECIPE FOR CHAMPURRADO – Hot Mexican Beverage

Believe it or not, growing up that was a major decision for me. I preferred Mexican hot chocolate as I was always leery from the thickness of Champurrado. Oh, how times have changed. And, on holidays like Diá de los Reyes (Three Kings Day) celebrated on January 6, Champurrado is a great companion to the Rosca de Reyes served. A sweet yeast-bread adorned with candied fruits, Rosca de Reyes traditionally has placed in the cake a small plastic figurine of the baby Jesus. The baby Jesus in the Rosca represents the flight of Jesus, fleeing from King Herod’s evil plan to kill all babies that could be the prophesied messiah. Whoever finds the baby Jesus figurine is blessed and must take the figurine to the nearest church on February 2, Día de la Candelaria. In the Mexican culture, this person also has to throw a party and provide tamales and Champurrado to the guests.

Champurrado is one of the oldest beverages in Mexico and uses two of the main ingredients indigenous to the Americas: cacao and corn. In parts of East Los Angeles, you’ll find people selling Champurrado on the streets or in small bakeries. During the holidays, I canvas the city for the perfect cup of Champurrado. I am mostly pleased from what I taste, although each cup has a slightly different flavor and texture in sweetness and thickness from the masa. This was when I decided to make my own. What I like about this recipe below is that you can adjust the thickness and sweetness levels to your liking.

  • ½ cup masa harina mixed with 1/3 cup hot water
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 (3-inch) piece canela (cinnamon stick)
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 3 ounces Mexican chocolate tablet
  • 1 piloncillo cone, chopped
  • 1 star anise
  1. Combine the masa harina with the 1 ½ cups water and the canela in a medium pot and cook over medium heat, stirring with a whisk, until it begins to bubble.
  2. Add the milk, chocolate, piloncillo, and star anise. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring until everything is melted and blended together.
  3. Discard the canela and star anise. Serve as is or strain it if desired. Personally, we like the slightly grainy texture as it feels more authentic.
  4. Note: The longer the Champurrado is simmered, the thicker it will become. Simply add some more milk to thin it out if you pass your desired viscosity.

Written by Stephen Chavez

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1 Comment

How do you make this recipe for a large crowd, maybe 50? Do you use the same proportions or does it need to be adjusted?

[…] and wood. You’ll delight in the warmth of its slight vanilla finish. You can find our favorite recipe for Champurrado on the LatinoFoodie […]


Brunch at State Fare

I am embarking on a slow mission to try some new brunch spots so that I can update my brunch faves for 2018! First on the list, a stop over to State Fare. I have blogged about State Fare in the past, but had yet to try their brunch menu which everyone seems to rave about. Well add me to the fan club because the Brunch at State Fare is SO good. Check out all the details below!

The Location

Since my last visit, State Fare did a pretty extensive remodel. The color concept changed and barriers were added to divide up spaces in the main dining area. Some things did not change though. There is still a large bar which was packed during my visit. Another highlight for me, the large community style tables throughout the restaurant. These are perfect for large groups and just earned State Fare a spot on my Houston Birthday Dinners list.

The Drinks

During a visit to State Fare for my birthday I fell in love with the flight of frozen cocktails. Imagine my excitement when I learned that State Fare offers a flight of mimosas during brunch! For just $14 bucks you can enjoy four mimosas including grapefruit, orange, pineapple, and blood orange. The pineapple mimosa was easily my favorite so I will probably go for a carafe of that on my next visit.

As far as other cocktails, State Fare has one of the largest brunch drinks menus I have ever seen. If you cannot find something you like here, it is you not them! In addition to the mimosa flight, they offer a bloody mary flight and the frozen cocktail flight. There are a few other brunch cocktails like the paloma and a few spins on bloody marys. In short, don’t skip the cocktails!

The Food

Similar to the cocktail menu, the brunch food menu is HUGE too. My sister and I had a hard time picking just one thing to order, so we did what anyone would do. Ordered several things! As far as menu offerings, State Fare kind of reminds me of a Cracker Barrel, but obviously better and fancier. For me, I could not pass up the opportunity to order one of the XXL pancakes. Guests can add thing such as fruit and chocolate chips, but I kept it plain. As the photo demonstrates, they are not exaggerating when they say this thing is super large. I swear this thing could feed a whole family. They even have ask if you want two! I just might pay to see someone eat two of those things ’cause I doubt it is possible!

My hash browns. This typically come with grilled onions, but I went without those.

I also ordered a side of loaded hash browns topped with bacon and Tillamook cheddar cheese. When I tell you those hash browns were SO good! The bacon was thick and crispy while the cheddar cheese added a nice flavor. The hash browns themselves were thick slices of potato offering a nice filling serving. My sister opted for the queso loaded hash browns which come topped with queso, pico, salsa and sour cream. With that she also ordered the huevos rancheros. We both walked away stuffed and satisfied!

The Takeaway

The Takeaway here is simple, get to State Fare as soon as possible for their amazing brunch!


Watch the video: Pink Squirrel. An Easy Creme de Cacao Cocktail. Booze On The Rocks (August 2022).