Tag Archives: drinks

ADVENTURES IN LALA LAND – LIBRARY BAR

Do you work downtown, have long days and tend to need a Friday night drink? I am a sucker for places inundated with books and I found myself downtown in the middle of the week, early for an event I was attending, when I spotted the Library Bar, so named, presumably, because located across the street from the Los Angeles beautiful public library.

As soon as I entered the lightly dimmed bar, what caught my attention were the floor to ceiling shelves, laden with books that, for all I know, could be fake, those empty boxes made to look like books in order to fool thieves. Because who is going to sit in the darkness and peruse bar books? Certainly not the legal eagle type of patrons that seemed to crowd the floor. Still, from a decor point of view, it looks inviting, with sofas spread in front of the bookshelves and stools at the counter.

The place was nonetheless welcoming, with no attitude and friendly staff. The food offerings and drink menu are scribbled on the mirror that runs the length of the bar counter and the din is not so loud that having an end of day chat with a colleague is an impossibility.  Above all, the barman didn’t balk at my unusual drink order and the prices are reasonable – I don’t recall a happy hour being advertised but the website mentions a $2 deal for movie Sundays. And they stay open late into the night. Maybe worth checking it out in the wee hours and see who replaces the office crowd.

librarybarla.com

 

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ROOIBOS

 

Rooibos didn’t mean much to me the first time I was offered a cup of it. A college friend had just come back from South Africa and brought a box of it back. She deemed it delicious. I, on the other hand, wasn’t an early convert but I have grown to love this caffeine free tea so intimately linked with South Africa.

The rooibos bush (Afrikaans for red bush) grows nearly exclusively in the Western Cape and its leaves have been used to make tea by the indigenous population for centuries. In the late 1700s, the Dutch colonialists observed the locals climbing up the mountain slopes to cut the rooibos’ leaves which they would bundle and bring back in big sacks. The leaves were left to dry in the sun and subsequently used for brewing tea. The Dutch quickly started to drink it as a substitution for black tea which was expensive to import and hard to come by. More importantly they encouraged the cultivation.

The leaves become reddish-brown once they are oxidized and they are known to contain a large amount of anti-oxidants, similar to green tea. In traditional bush medicine, rooibos is said to help baby colic, allergy, asthma and, applied to the skin, to clear up acne.

Rooibos’ taste can be a slightly acquired one – earthy with a hint of sweetness. In South Africa it is as easy to find as PG Tips in England and it’s drunk straight or slightly sweetened. Or a lot sweetened – I looked in disbelief when I offered a cup of it to my friend Sue’s house maid and she dropped 5 spoonfuls of sugar in it!

In the US it has been growing in popularity but tea blenders somehow must think consumers might have a problem with the original flavor and they tend to mix it with vanilla, spices or ginger so that finding straightforward rooibos has become a treasure hunt in health stores. It’s a shame because like macha once you get past the unfamiliar earthy flavour, the nuances of the plant come through, making for a perfect hot drink.

 

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CRODINO AND CAMPARI – SAY WHAT?

There is a drink I am obsessed with that, unfortunately, is not sold in the States. After my last trip to Italy I looked for it high and low in the internet maze that usually spits out whatever you are seeking. But to no avail. Crodino just cannot be had in the US.

Crodino is a little orange non-alcoholic bitter drink made by Campari and sold in tiny 6 oz bottles (could it be one of the reasons why it’s not exported? too small for the American market?). It’s typically savoured as an aperitif while munching on chips and nuts or, in more stylish establishments, little sandwiches and other finger food bars provide for free with drinks in the late afternoon. Campari’s website only says that Crodino is made with water, sugar and herbs – the recipe as secret as Coke’s.

A couple of Summers ago, my friend G came to visit and, unable to find a Negroni Sbagliato anywhere, took matters in his own hands, stopped at a liquor store and bought himself a bottle of Campari that is still living at my house. Campari is an alcoholic bitter drink (about 20% alcoholic content) that is also made from infusing herbs and fruit. Its characteristic bright red color used to be obtained from a dye made by crushing cochineal insects (ladybugs family) back in 1860 when Gaspare Campari invented it in Novara. I am fairly certain no insects are harmed these days but it’s probably Red # 5 that is used.

Campari is usually mixed with soda water and vermouth (the base for the Americano cocktail) but the most famous cocktail that spurred from it is Negroni, said to have been created in 1919 in Florence at what is now Cafe Giacosa. A Count Negroni asked the bartender for his Americano cocktail to be made with gin instead of soda water and voila. A new drink was born.

But back to my own bottle of Campari. While cleaning my miserly stocked liquor cabinet I came across it and wondered what the hell to do with is as my near teetotaler status wold not make me crave Negronis or other very alcoholic concoctions. I mixed it with sparkling water and simple syrup and it was ok but nothing I would go back to. Then, fishing out an old can of Sprite from the pantry, I mixed the two and I was floored. Not exactly 100% but very, very similar to a Crodino, albeit an alcoholic one.

On Oscar night, just two days before my annual cleanse, I fixed myself a large glass of Campari-Crodino to bid goodbye to alcohol, coffee, sugar, dairy and wheat for the next 6 weeks. It tasted delicious!

My inherited Campari bottle

To make it: use one part Campari to two parts Sprite.

 

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