If you were one of the millions of people who watched any coverage of the recent Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, you probably heard either the commentators or athletes raving about a local drink called the caipirinha. The caipirinha is a traditional Brazilian drink that combines lime, sugar, and the Brazilian spirit of cachaça (pronounced kun-SHAH-sa).

But what exactly is cachaca? At its most basic level, cachaça is a kind of rum. Rum and cachaça are both made from sugar cane and, as anthropologists are beginning to believe, were both invented in Brazil. They differ, however, in their production method. Cachaça is made from freshly pressed cane sugar juice that is fermented and then distilled, while rum is made from molasses. You’ll sometimes see cachaça referred to as Brazilian rum, but this misnomer is quickly falling out of use. Since 2013, when a treaty between the Brazilian and U.S. governments was signed, cachaça has been legally recognized as a separate entity from rum.

Though cachaça is often bottled immediately after distillation, in a few instances it can be aged like rum. Cachaça is unique in that it can be aged in any number of different woods. You’ll commonly find it aged in American or French oak, but it’s also aged in many of the unique woods that are found only in Brazil to give it a unique flavor.

Almost 400 million gallons are produced in Brazil, with over 95% of it being consumed there. A majority of what is exported is drunk in Germany, Japan, and Portugal, three countries with large Brazilian expat populations.

So what does cachaça actually taste like? Like rum, it can range widely based on production methods, with flavors that include baked fruits, herbs, and a leafy, herbal flavor that makes you feel like you’re drinking the Brazilian rainforest. Oak aged cachaças will often take on the character of the barrels they’re aged in with spicy or caramel-like flavors.

Cachaça can be used to make any number of amazing cocktails. Check out a few of our favorites below!

Jag milk

‘Sangria’ has become synonymous with ‘wine punch’ for most people, but it actually holds a specific place in beverage history.  Around 200 BC, the Romans swept through the Iberian peninsula, planting vineyards as they went. Historically, wine was added to water to kill any bacteria and make it safe to drink.  2,000 years ago, however, winemaking wasn’t the skilled art that it can be today.  Herbs and spices were added to hide any off-putting flavors in the wine.  Eventually, even after potable water became easier to find, the custom was so popular that it began common for people to make their own blends of red wine and herbs. The Latin root of the word ‘sangria’ is sanguis, or blood.

A version of sangria was first made my Roman settlers in Spain

A version of sangria was first made my Roman settlers in Spain

Wine punches are not limited to Spain. In 1800’s Britain ‘Claret Cup Punch’ was an incredibly popular cocktail.  ‘Claret’ is the name the British gave to the red wines of Bordeaux during this time period. The wine would be mixed with lemon, sugar, carbonated water, and whatever else the creator desired (fruit, bitters, sherry, rum, juice, etc.)

Today, making your own delicious sangria is easy, so long as you follow a few simple steps.  I’m going to cover a white and red sangria, as many people have strong feelings on which is better.

So, red sangria.  The most common question I hear is “What type of wine should I use for sangria?”  The short answer is any wine that you like.  Sangria has no rules.  The long answer is that you should consider what flavors you will be adding and pair accordingly.  Something from Spain- maybe a Rioja, would be a wonderful traditional base for sangria made with brandy, orange slices, honey, and lemon juice.  If you are making something more rich, maybe adding pomegranate, rum, orange liqueur, and blackberries, a cabernet with more tannins would stand up to these strong flavors.  If you are thinking strawberries, raspberries, and rose water, a lovely pinot noir should work nicely.

While it may not be the traditional choice for sangria, white wines create delicious, refreshing drinks for the summertime.  Lighter and more tropical fruits are easier to use in this version as well. If you like sweet wines, moscato makes a great sangria. Peach nectar, raspberries, and strawberry would be a great combination of fruits for this wine. If you like something more crisp, use a sauvignon blanc. I’d use basil to enhance the grassy flavors of the wine alongside pineapple, watermelon, and a touch of elderflower liqueur.

Be sure to remember...

  • You’ll want to use a wine of reasonable quality, but there is no reason to break out the good stuff for a good batch of sangria.
  • Let you sangria sit for a bit after assembling. Preferably overnight- covered and in the fridge.
  • If you add liquor to your sangria, you will be fortifying it. If you want to be able to sip on it for a few days or it will be sitting out for a period of time, this is a good idea.
  • This is a premium idea for when you have lots of random wine to get rid of or someone sends you and over-large fruit bouquet.
  • Taste as you go.  Yes, the flavor will change as it marinates, but in general, this is a trial and error type of creation and you can always add more stuff.
  • In Spain, sangria is often served over ice and topped with soda water.  In the Arkansas heat, this is probably a good idea. Wait until the sangria is in the glass to add the soda water- keeps it fizzy.
  • As far as stemware goes, it will look great on Instagram if you serve in wine glasses with colorful, fresh fruit to garnish.  If you don’t participate in this silliness, anything from fine crystal to solo cups will work.
  • If you don’t have much time to let your sangria sit, choose fruits that are soft and/or porous.  I’ve seen watermelon turn a white wine pink in 10 minutes flat.  Also, in this case, fruit juice is your friend.   


And that’s it! You’re ready to create an awesome (and custom!) drink. Be sure to let us know when the party is!

If you’re like me, you don’t always finish every bottle of wine that you open- you end up recorking it and sticking it the fridge. More often than not, these bottles end up as ingredients in the next night’s dinner. Adding wine to a dish can add a host of new flavors. Adding wine is the perfect way to turn a simple weeknight meal into something special.

The key when cooking with wine is to only use a bottle of quality wine. This doesn’t mean that you should go out and spend your whole paycheck on bottle of wine just to pour it into your spaghetti sauce, but it does mean that you should get a wine that you’d be happy drinking on its own. Remember, whatever wine you use will end up dramatically affecting the dish, so it’s best to choose something you enjoy. If I don’t have any partial bottles to use, I’ll serve whatever is left over from cooking to pair with the dish.

Wine can be added to many dishes, but knowing when to add the wine can be a little tricky. You should treat wine much like you would any other spice or herb, in that too much of it won’t be noticeable, but too much could ruin a dish. You’ll want to add the wine before or during the actual cooking time. Adding it too late in the process doesn’t allow the alcohol to cook off and can your entire dish a harsh taste. For most recipes, you’ll only want about  ¼ of a cup.

When it comes to choosing which wine to add to a specific dish, the combinations are almost endless. As a rule of thumb, I generally pair red wines with red meat and tomato based dishes, while using white wines for vegetables and seafood. It’s also a safe bet to use wines in dishes that are from the same region. For example, an Italian sangiovese would be excellent in a hearty pasta dish.

Poached Salmon

1 lb of salmon

1 large white onion

2 lemons


1 bottle of aromatic white wine

Slice the onion and place it on the bottom of a large pan. Rub the salmon with salt and pepper, then place on the onion skin side down, then sprinkle with dill. Slice one of the lemons into wheels and lay over the salmon. Cut the second lemon into halves, and drizzle the juice of one half over the salmon. Fill the pan with 1 bottle of white wine, if the salmon is not covered, top off with water. Turn on the heat until boiling, and then remove from heat. Cover the pan and let rest for 15 minutes. Drizzle the juice of the second lemon half over the fish once it’s plated.

For this recipe, I’ve used a number of white wines. I’ve found that an Italian falanghina, such as the Vesevo Beneventano falanghina tastes best to me, but I think an unoaked chardonnay gives the fish an added zest that I really enjoy. St. Supéry’s unoaked chardonnay is one I use all the time.

Braised fennel and white beans

4-5 fennel bulbs

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Salt to taste

2 tablespoons of honey

1 lemon, cut into wedges

¼ cup dry white wine

2 cups cooked white beans (cannellini, navy, etc)


Cut the fennel bulbs into wedges and let them cook in the olive oil over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until they begin to caramelize. Stir and let them cook through for another 2-3 minutes. Then add the lemon wedges, salt, honey, and wine*, stirring to combine. Let the wine reduce for 1-2 minutes before adding in the beans. Stir again and let cook for 5 minutes before serving. Add dill and olive oil for garnish.

I think sauvignon blanc works best here. A good French Sancerre will add a racy, tangy element to the honey and fennel, but it might be overpowering for some palates. When I choose to use a Sancerre, I always use one from Daniel Chotard. I’ve found that a well-oaked sauvignon blanc from California, such as Ferrari Carano’s fumé blanc seems to work for my guests. The oak cuts down the wine’s natural acidity and adds a tiny hint of vanilla to the dish’s natural flavor.

Pasta sauce with meatballs

Meatballs (store bought or your own recipe is fine)

Tomato based pasta sauce (store bought or your own recipe is fine)

¼ to 1 cup red wine of choice

This is my favorite way to punch up a pasta dish, especially on a busy weeknight when I haven’t had the time (or energy) to make my own sauce. You can even purchase store-bought meatballs for this so long as they aren’t already cooked. Take your uncooked meatballs and place them into a saucepan and fill it with wine so that the meatballs a quarter to half submerged. The amount of wine needed will vary. Simmer in the wine for about 10 minutes and then add your sauce to the pan to continue simmering until ready, usually about 25-30 minutes.

You can literally use any wine you want for this recipe. I’ve used cabernet sauvignon, sangiovese, and syrah and it’s come out different and delicious each time. I seem to always have a bottle of merlot on hand, especially Markham merlot, so it gets used most often. My personal favorite combination is a chorizo meatball simmered in Wisdom & Water Extra Amontillado sherry along with my own personal sauce recipe, but this recipe is so easy that you can do literally anything to it and come out with an excellent dinner.

Even though the word cocktail wouldn’t be invented until the 1800’s the practice of blending different liquors together was alive and well in the American colonies. Rum was the predominate spirit for the time due to the low cost of shipping from Caribbean ports to America. Here are two rum-based cocktails that were widely drunk during the time of the American Revolution.

Stone Fence

This simple cocktail is a blend of aged rum and hard cider. Its simplicity and the easy availability of its ingredients made it popular among soldiers on both sides of the Revolutionary War. It was a favorite drink of Colonel Ethan Allen who gave it to his soldiers the night before he led them in the battle that captured Fort Ticonderoga in the weeks of the war. For a slightly sweeter drink, try using a sweeter cider such as Stella Artois Cidre. 

Martha Washington's Punch

Even before her husband George became the first president, Martha Washington was known as a great entertainer. She was known for the elaborate dinner parties she would host, and for the extravagant drinks that would be served there. George Washington was a great fan of fortified wines such as Port and Madeira, but it’s Martha’s punch recipe that still is still used almost 250 years later. This recipe blends multiple rums with fruit for a spicy party drink. Though Martha wouldn’t have had any club soda to add to her punch, we think it’s a great addition that adds a little effervescence to the drink.  

Refreshing Cold Mint Julep for the Derby

With the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby drawing near, my mind is drawn to the most important part of race day: drinking. Specifically, racing makes me think Juleps. There’s nothing better on a hot day than this combination of bourbon, mint, sugar and crushed ice.

I love this drink because of the ritual that surrounds it. Every part of the experience has been thought out and refined over its long history. First, there is the silver cup, and then the crushed ice which makes the drink as cold as possible. The aroma is considered as well. You’ll often see a bartender clap the mint between their palms to release the mint’s aroma before topping the drink with it. A short straw is called for so that you smell the mint with every sip. Finally, tradition dictates that the drinker only touch the base or rim of the cup so as not to disturb the frozen crust of condensation.

Surprisingly, the julep can trace its history back over a thousand years. For most of that time, it was simply a type of medicine, usually a concoction of macerated flower petals and water. It wasn’t until the mid-eighteenth century that Americans began referring to their morning tipple as a “julep.” The juleps these colonial jokesters were having with breakfast were very different than the modern variation. Their cocktail contained rum instead of bourbon, only a sliver of mint, and water was called for instead of precious ice. From there, the drink grew with the new country, spreading with the colonies and adapting with the popular spirits of the day. Brandy and rye whiskey joined rum in the julep sooner than bourbon. Ice was added when possible, cut in giant blocks from frozen lakes in the north and shipped south and preserved by sawdust in ice houses. With the lack of air conditioning, the julep became America’s preferred method of staying cool. By 1938, when Churchill Downs began promoting the mint julep as the official drink of the Kentucky Derby, bourbon had become the only spirit called for.

Today I offer you a few recipes so that you can taste through a few centuries of the drink’s history.

Joe Redding’s Julep (1840)

1 oz Pierre Ferrand Ambre Cognac

1 oz Smith & Cross Rum

1 oz Kopke 10yr tawny port

1 oz raw sugar syrup

6-8 mint leaves

1 mint sprig for garnish

Prescription Julep (1857)

1 ½ oz Pierre Ferrand Ambre Cognac

½ oz Rittenhouse Rye

1 oz raw sugar syrup

6-8 mint leaves

1 mint sprig for garnish

Bourbon Mint Julep (Present Day)

2 oz Henry McKenna 10yr Bourbon

1 oz raw sugar syrup

6-8 mint leaves

1 mint sprig for garnish

Keegan’s Julep

1.5 oz Pierre Ferran Ambre Cognac

.5 oz Smith & Cross Rum

1 oz raw sugar syrup

6-8 mint leaves

1 mint sprig for garnish

All four recipes are prepared the same way. Take the mint in your hand and press it firmly with your thumb so that it releases its essential oil. Add the pressed mint leaves, spirit, and sugar to a mixing glass and stir with ice until well chilled. Pour the mixture over crushed ice in a julep cup. Top with more crushed ice so that it mounds above the rim of the cup. Take your mint sprig and clap it between your hands to release the aroma and nestle the sprig in the ice. At first, the flavor may be too intense but take your time. As the ice melts, it will mellow the flavor.

The history of the Margarita is murky at best. Different stories have it originating in different bars from Baja or Juarez, Mexico to San Diego or La Jolla, California. The drink’s name is also under debate. Was it named for Hollywood actress Rita Hayworth or was it perhaps named for the daughter of the German ambassador? 

One thing that does seem clear is that it originated in the late 1930’s or early 1940’s at a time just after American prohibition in which many Americans had begun traveling to Mexico to consume alcohol. Historically in Mexico, tequila has always been sipped straight, and the Margarita is thought to have been invented for Americans who were more used to drinking mixed drinks.

Though there are now many different kinds of Margaritas, many with different fruits added in, we’ve come up with the best recipe we could find. Even though we may never know the exact origins of the Margarita, this recipe is very close to the original: quality tequila, an orange liquor, and tart fruit juice. Enjoy!

Happy Star Wars Day!

Looking for some out of this world cocktails to accompany your 7 movie marathon? We’ve got you covered with 6 (inter)steller recipes!

Coruscant Connection

Being a Galactic Senate is hard work! Relax with a Coruscant Connection. It’s the perfect drink for unwittingly giving rise to a new galactic order. 


1 part Cognac

1 park Luxardo Amaretto 

Pour all ingredients directly into old fashioned glass filled with ice cubes. Stir gently.

Tatooine Sunset

Two suns mean that it’s twice as hot on Tattooine, and that you’ll be excused for needing two of these to cool off!


3 oz. Lagioiosa Prosecco DOCG

1 oz. Aperol

Splash of soda water

Build into glass over ice, garnish with orange and serve.

Princess Royale

Naboo. Alderaan. Yavin. Every planet needs a princess, and there’s no drink more royal than this one!


.75 oz Crème de Violette

5 oz Champagne

Pour into Champagne flute and garnish with lemon, cherry, or blackberry (dependant upon house colors)

Jakku Sandstorm

When the wind starts to blow you’re in for one wild time! Settle back with this drink and watch the sand fly!


1.5 oz White rum

.5 oz Ancho Reyes chile liquor

1 oz fresh lemon juice

.5 oz simple syrup

Club soda

Combine rum, Ancho Reyes, syrup, and juice in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into glass and top off with club soda. Garnish with lemon.


It may be cold outside, but things are just heating up with this cocktail!

2 oz gin

1 oz Cointreau

1 oz fresh lemon juice

1 egg white (option)
Combine all ingredients with ice in a mixing glass. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Dark Lord of the Spritz

Take a sip on the dark side! The perfect chaser to destroying worlds and killing Jedi.

1.5 oz Chambord Liqueur

4 oz dry white wine

Soda water

Take a large wine glass and fill it up with ice. Add Chambord, white wine, and soda. Stir and garnish with the lightsabers of your fallen enemies.