Authors Posts by Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski


By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Countless articles and books include information, charts, diagrams and so forth on how we are supposed to pair cheese with wine and which combinations are made in heaven. (I’ve had a few that were probably made in hell!) Some of the more enlightened folk even recommend and discuss pairing cheese with beer, especially with the tremendous growth of craft beers and brewpubs.

But what about pairing cheese with spirits — you know … whiskey, vodka, brandy, rum, liqueurs and even grappa? It’s really not difficult once you understand the basics of spirits and how their flavors can interact with many cheeses that same way wine does.

As with cheese and wine, your cheese and spirits should complement each other. The secret is to avoid having either overpowered by the other, and spirits with an alcoholic beverage hovering around 40 percent the task becomes greater.

Be certain to slightly chill the spirits to around 65 to 68 degrees. Higher temperatures will certainly bring the alcohol to the forefront of your nose and mouth. Choose your favorite glass, and, if you like drinking your spirits over ice, refrigerate them instead.

The spirits and cheese recommendations below are from a recent tasting I conducted:

Moletto Gin, Veneto, Italy (86 proof) Perhaps the most incredible gin I’ve ever encountered! Yes, the familiar juniper berry notes along with rosemary, mint, basil and hint of citrus are there, but the kicker is an initial burst of fresh tomatoes! This gin was macerated for 45 days with San Marzano tomatoes from Italy. Recommended cheeses: Bel Paese, Boulette d’Avesnes, Leyden or mozzarella.

Moletto Grappa di Arneis, Italy (80 proof) Bouquet and flavor of spicy cherries, dried flowers, herbs, spices and dried fruits. Subtle hints of black pepper, raisins and apricot are present in the aftertaste. Recommended cheeses: Creamy Gorgonzola, herbed cheese, Gouda or Montasio.

Le Reviseur “V.S.” Single Estate, Cognac France (80 proof) A full, warming bouquet and flavor of dried fruits (raisins, dates, cherries), along with spices and dark berries. Hints of chocolate and plums are present in an ultra-smooth taste. Recommended cheeses: brie, Camembert, Livarot or Roquefort.

Laird’s “Straight Apple Brandy” New Jersey (100 proof) A brandy made from about 20 pounds of apples and aged around three years in charred oak barrels. An intense aroma of cider, baked apples, cloves and vanilla. Warming in the mouth with hints of honey, caramel and spices and a smooth finish. The aftertaste remains for some time. Recommended cheeses: Bondon, cheddar, Petit-Suisse or Pont l’Évêque.

Charles Goodnight “Bourbon,” 6 years old, Kentucky (100 proof) A heady bouquet of oak, caramel, smoky tobacco and vanilla. Warming flavors of spices, coconut and toasted almonds. Surprisingly smooth with an aftertaste of honey. Recommended cheeses: Asiago, Kefalotyri, Monterey Jack or Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Bob Lipinski, a local author, has written 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need to Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He conducts training seminars on wine, spirits and food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at or

“The first duty of wine is to be red. The second is to be a Burgundy.”

— Alec Waugh, 1898-1981, British novelist, “In Praise of Wine,” 1959

By Bob Lipinski

The superb 2015 vintage is described by Jancis Robinson, M.W. as “seriously impressive.” The vintage produced excellent red and white wines across the board. The red wines I tasted were loaded with heaps of ripe, concentrated fruit, good acidity and considerable flavor. The whites displayed a fine balance between fruit, acidity and alcohol. Fruit was dominant in most of the wines I tasted with a striking array of flavors.

Bob LIpinski

At a recent trade tasting featuring the 2015 Burgundies, there were more than 100 wines to taste, and although I tried my best, I couldn’t taste them all! Below are some of my tasting notes.

2015 J.J. Vincent, Pouilly-Fuissé “Marie Antoinette”: (The name a tribute to Jean Jacques Vincent’s mother, Marie Antoinette Vincent): Pale straw-colored with an abundant bouquet of almonds, green apples, and citrus. Medium-bodied and quite refined, with layers of peach, melon and minerals.

2015 Château Fuissé, Pouilly-Fuissé “Tête de Cru”: Light and quite refreshing bouquet of minerals and apples with some toasted notes. Flavor is rich, tasting of vanilla, yellow plum and citrus.

2015 Château Fuissé, Pouilly-Fuissé “Les Combettes”: Bouquet of citrus, tropical fruit and pear. In the mouth, it is refreshing, medium-bodied and balanced, with flavors of yellow plums, orange and licorice.

2015 Château Fuissé, Pouilly-Fuissé “Les Brûlés”: Light straw-colored with a light bouquet of pear, apples and citrus. A full-flavored wine tasting very much of honey, butterscotch, coconut, toasted nuts and vanilla.

2015 Billaud-Simon, Chablis “1er Cru Mont de Milieu”: Complex nose combines citrus fruit with melon notes, enticing tangerine flavor and firm acidity.

2015 Billaud-Simon, Chablis “1er Cru Vaillons”: Medium-bodied, dry, lively and clean tasting with flavors of spices, peach and orange and a minerally finish and well-balanced aftertaste.

2015 Billaud-Simon, Chablis “Vaudésir Grand Cru”: A spicy bouquet and flavor of oranges, peaches and melon, with plenty of vanilla. Clean, minerally finish and lingering aftertaste.

2015 Billaud-Simon, Chablis “Montée de Tonnerre 1er”: Refreshing aroma of oranges, peaches and citrus. Nutty with flavors of tart tangerine, melon and a sort of minerally chalky character.

2015 Armand Rousseau,“Gevrey-Chambertin”: Deeply colored with a medium-full bouquet of plums, roses, violets and citrus. Full in the mouth with tart plums and spicy cherries. Great finish.

2015 Armand Rousseau, “Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru”: Deep ruby color; full bouquet of raspberries and Marasca cherries; silky with layers of berries, light tannins and citrus. What a wine!

2015 Armand Rousseau, “Clos de la Roche Grand Cru”: Bright ruby color: bouquet of jammy spices, plums, cola and cinnamon. Almost a sweetness in the mouth with concentrated fruit, tannin and berries.

2015 Armand Rousseau, “Chambertin Grand Cru”: This wine stole the show (to me). Sweet, concentrated, jammy, spicy fruit; layers of fruit, blackberries, chocolate and damson plums.

Bob Lipinski, a local author, has written 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need to Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He conducts training seminars on wine, spirits and food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at or

By Bob Lipinski

“Irish diplomacy is the ability to tell a man to go to hell so that he looks forward to making the trip.” (Irish saying)

Bob Lipinski

Before you begin cooking the corned beef, you will need some good old-fashioned pants-slapping music. Naturally, the Irish Rovers or Clancy Brothers would be a great choice. Now, the best songs to listen to include “The Unicorn,” “The Orange and the Green,” “Goodbye Mrs. Durkin,” “Black Velvet Band,” “Donald Where’s Your Trousers,” “Bridget Flynn,” “Lilly The Pink,” and “Harrigan.”

To help celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day, here’s the scoop on corned beef.

The term corned beef has nothing to do with American corn, but rather an English term from the seventeenth century, for curing and preserving a brisket of beef in salt, which at one time was in the form of pellets (or grains of salt), called corns. Today “corning” is the term used to describe the process of curing a brisket of beef by steeping it in a pickling solution.

Here’s what I use to cook corned beef. Photo by Bob Lipinski

Corned beef, a staple of all Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations, is generally cooked by steam, although some cooks prefer to boil, bake or even microwave it (ouch, when you see the electric bill.) I have found that steaming the corned beef in a tall pot used for steaming clams minimizes shrinkage, maintains moisture and cooks in less time than other methods. Be certain the bottom of the steamer pot is filled with water, plus the pickling spices, which are often packed with the corned beef. (You can use a tablespoon of pickling spices, available in the supermarket if needed.) Do not trim off any fat pre-cooking; it adds to the moisture. Cook according to the package or your butcher’s advice. To keep the corned beef tender after cooking, let it rest for five minutes before serving. Now, remove any excess fat. To avoid stringy, cooked meat, be certain to slice against the grain.

Between the Irish music, the parade up Fifth Avenue and eating chunks of Irish soda bread, I enjoy beer on Saint Patrick’s Day. Everyone has their favorite and the most popular Irish beers are Beamish, Galway Hooker, Guinness, Harp, Murphy’s, O’Hara’s and Smithwick’s. However, my favorite is Guinness Foreign Export Stout, available only in four-packs. Guinness Stout is relatively low in carbonation and should ideally be served at 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you prefer wine, my suggestions for white wines are chenin blanc, gewürztraminer, pinot blanc, riesling and sylvaner. Red wines are barbera, Bardolino, Beaujolais, Chianti and pinot noir. Equally fine is rosé, white zinfandel and a blanc de noirs sparkling wine.

Bob Lipinski, a local author, has written 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need to Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He conducts training seminars on wine, spirits and food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at or

“I drink Champagne when I win, to celebrate … And I drink Champagne when I lose, to console myself.”

 (Napoléon Bonaparte I, 1769–1821, French General and Emperor)

By Bob Lipinski

I love “bubbly” … sparkling wines that dance on my tongue, revealing their subtle or bold flavors. Some are crisp and quite dry, while others are off-dry or even sweet. Virtually every country makes them and they are available in all sorts of style and prices. I would like to share with you some champagne and sparkling wines that I’ve recently tasted, which are worth purchasing.


NV Ruinart “Blanc de Blancs” (Champagne, France). Clean and crisp with hints of brioche, citrus and celery. Quite dry, with a long, pleasing aftertaste.

NV André Jacquart Mesnil “Brut Nature” (Champagne, France). Green apple and citrus aromas with subtle flavors of pears and nuts. Very dry and palate cleansing.

2008 Pol Roger “Brut” (Champagne, France). Straw-colored with an aroma of biscuits, butter and citrus. Dry, with flavors of spices, toasted bread and green apple.

2006 Taittinger “Comtes de Champagne” (Champagne, France). An aroma of red apples, wheat and citrus. Medium-bodied with flavors of green apple, orange and spices.

1995 Charles Heidsieck “Blanc de Millénaires” (Champagne, France). Bouquet of toasted bread, citrus and green apple. Medium-bodied and dry, with delicate pear and apple flavors.

Cheeses that pair nicely with champagne are Beaufort, Boursault, Camembert, Carré de l’Est, Langres and Maroilles.


NV Bortolotti “47” Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, DOCG, “Extra Dry” (Italy). Wow… what a long name! Medium-full bodied with bouquet and flavor of peaches, apricots, flowers and a hint of coffee.

NV Terre di San Venanzio, Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG “Brut” (Italy). Medium-bodied with a floral bouquet of stone fruits, apples and citrus. Dry with hints of fennel and ginger.

NV Nino Franco Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG “Brut” (Italy). Lovely bouquet of apricots, wild flowers and citrus. Off-dry with hints of almonds.

Cheeses that pair nicely with prosecco include Asiago, Bagozzo, fontina, Parmigiano-Reggiano, pecorino and Asiago Pressato.

The next two wines are slightly effervescent or as the Italians call them, “frizzante.” They are best served with panettone, fruit-based desserts or some Robiola de Roccaverano, a goat’s milk cheese from Piedmont. Two other recommended cheeses are Aostino and Gorgonzola.

Coppo 2015 Moncalvina Moscato d’Asti DOCG (Italy). Straw-colored, with greenish reflections. Floral notes along with peach and pear overtones. Semisweet with some citrus for balance.

Michele Chiarlo 2015 Nivole Moscato d’Asti DOCG (Italy). Intensely aromatic and fruity, suggestive of sage, grapefruit, apricot and meringue.

Bob Lipinski, a local author, conducts training seminars on wine, spirits and food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at

In the UK and Europe, the term Swiss cheese has no meaning.

By Bob Lipinski

“What is a harp but an oversized cheese slicer with cultural pretensions?”

— Denis Norden, English comedy writer

“Swiss cheese” as we know it doesn’t really exist. It is a generic term often used in North America for any type of cheese, regardless of where it comes from, as long as it has a pale-yellow body and is literally full of holes or “eyes,” with a rubbery texture. And this holds true for both imported and “domestic” Swiss cheeses.

Most of the time the cheese is actually Emmentaler from Switzerland or Jarlsberg from Norway. In the UK and Europe, the term Swiss cheese has no meaning and asking for a “pound of Swiss cheese” would be the equivalent of saying, “I’d like a pound of Italian cheese” in Italy, whereby Italians would ask, “Which Italian cheese?”

Switzerland produces more than 450 varieties of cheese (mostly from cow’s milk) and they are not all called “Swiss Cheese.” Emmentaler, a cow’s milk cheese comes from the Emme Valley (near Bern), Switzerland, where it has been made since the fifteenth century. It has a pale-yellow exterior with large shiny holes and a natural edible rind; light yellow interior and is wheel-shaped. It is firm to very firm; with an almost elastic, smooth, plastic texture and slightly oily. Emmentaler is mild to full-flavored, with a sweet, fruity, nutty flavor. A younger and milder version is known as Baby Swiss. Genuine Swiss Emmentaler has the word “Switzerland” stamped all over the rind.

By the way, the holes in the cheese are produced by carbonic acid gas bubbles during fermentation or bacterial activity, which generates propionic acid and causes gas to expand within the curd also creates the holes. The bubbles are unable to escape, which is responsible for the “hole” formation ranging from pinhead size to dime or quarter size. They are sometimes made mechanically for appearance sake. Before serving the cheese, allow it to sit for 30 minutes to one hour at room temperature, which will soften the texture, release the aromas and maximize the flavor.

Now my wine recommendations:

2015 Torre Santa La Rocca “Bombino Nero” Rosé (Italy): Salmon color with an intense fruity bouquet of cherry, strawberry and melon. Dry and quite flavorful; citrus, orange and raspberries abound. Great for Sunday brunch.

2012 Château Prieurs de la Commanderie (Pomerol, Bordeaux): (80 percent merlot/ 20 percent cabernet franc). Bouquet and flavor of black cherry, plums and cedar. Medium-bodied, quite smooth and very easy to drink now or in a few years. I think of lamb chops rubbed with rosemary.

2014 Komodo Dragon “Red Blend” Columbia Valley, Washington: Quite dark with a full bouquet and flavor of black currants, black cherries, chocolate and licorice. Hints of nutmeg, cinnamon, coffee and vanilla. Pair this with a porterhouse steak.

Bob Lipinski, a local author, has written 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need to Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He conducts training seminars on wine, spirits and food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at OR

A mug of eggnog sets the tone for the holidays

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinksi

When I think of “winter drinks to warm me up,” my thoughts immediately run to sitting in a ski lodge after a day on the slopes watching the snow fall through a large picture window, while snuggled in front of a roaring fire with a warm drink in my hand.

Let’s forget the slopes for a moment and pretend you’re home; perhaps just after finishing shoveling snow, relaxing and needing something to remove the chill and warm your bones. I have just the remedy for you.

Cocktails or drinks served warm or even hot have been with us for hundreds of years; some made in the U.S. and others take their history, tradition and ingredients from far off lands. Below are some of my favorite beverages to “take off the chill.”

Eggnog: A rich, nonalcoholic dairy beverage made with egg yolks, cream and sugar and generally served during cold weather. The alcoholic version includes brandy or rum as well. The word “eggnog,” first used around 1775, is probably a corruption of “Egg-and-Grog.”

Mulled wine: (United States) A sweetened and spiced red wine drink to which sugar, lemon peel and spices such as nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon are added. It is then heated by a loggerhead and served very warm to hot. A type of mulled wine made in Austria and Germany is “glühwein.” Below are several types of mulled wine drinks … Bishop, glögg and Negus.

Bishop: (England) One of the many versions of a mulled wine popular with undergraduates at Oxford and Cambridge in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It is made with port wine, sugar, spices and an orange stuck with cloves. The drink is then heated and served warm. It is a traditional beverage in England and northern Europe.

Glögg: (Nordic countries) A traditional hot-spiced drink similar to hot mulled wine usually consumed during the cold weather. It is made from a combination of aquavit or brandy, red wine, cardamom, cloves, sugar, raisins, almonds and other ingredients. Glögg is served warm in glasses containing a small cinnamon stick, raisins, currants or almonds.

Negus: (England) A hot wine (generally port or sherry) drink often sweetened and flavored with various spices, named after Colonel Francis Negus (1670–1732), an English military officer.

Hot buttered rum dates back to the 1650s in New England

Hot buttered rum: A cocktail consisting of dark rum, brown sugar, cloves, butter and boiling water, dating back to the 1650s in New England.

Hot toddy: (England) A drink dating back to the 1700s consisting of brandy, whiskey or other distilled spirits with hot water, sugar, lemon juice, cloves, cinnamon and other spices. Toddy is derived from the Hindu word “tari” used for the sap or juice of a palm tree. This sap was often fermented to create an alcoholic beverage. If you can’t find a hot beverage while out on the slopes, then perhaps look for a Saint Bernard dog, usually identified with the carrying of a small keg of brandy or other distilled spirits around its neck to give relief and warmth to stranded skiers.

Happy Holidays!

Bob Lipinski, a local author, has written 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need to Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He conducts training seminars on wine, spirits and food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at OR

A scene from the 2016 documentary, 'Burgundy: People With a Passion for Wine,' one of Bob Lipinski's top picks for the holidays.

By Bob Lipinski

My annual list of books (and video) to purchase for the upcoming holidays covers a multitude of topics, genres and authors. Some are current, “just-released” publications and other are “golden oldies” that are a “must read.” They are available in most bookstores and online.

Bob Lipinski
Bob Lipinski

“The Italian Slow Cooker” (2010) by Michele Scicolone. Finally, a book that combines the fresh, exuberant flavors of great Italian food with the ease and comfort of a slow cooker. Scicolone, an authority on Italian cooking, shows how good ingredients and simple techniques can lift the usual “crockpot” fare into the dimension of fine food.

“The Italian Vegetable Cookbook” (2014) by Michele Scicolone. Scicolone shares 200 of the best vegetable recipes gathered from talented home cooks, chefs, produce vendors and vineyard owners throughout Italy. A cherished few of the recipes are family specialties, passed down by her grandmother.

“Burgundy: People With a Passion for Wine” (2016-DVD) by Rudi Goldman. A colorful mosaic of extraordinary stories about people whose lives revolve around the culture, challenges and pleasures of wine, winemaking and French gastronomy in Burgundy’s Côte d’Or. A must see video; it’s that good!

“101: Everything You Need to Know About Whiskey” (2015) by Bob Lipinski. It covers the basics of each major whiskey category and countries of origin. Also covered are history, definitions, slang terms, classic cocktails, drinks of American presidents and famous people and whiskey-infused quotes.

“The 24-Hour Wine Expert” (2016) by Jancis Robinson. This best-selling author has penned a 112-page book that strips away the nonessentials and concentrates on what’s really important in learning about wine. Easy to read style with drawings and down-to-earth material that can be read in 24 hours.

“Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (2015) by Bob Lipinski and Gary Grunner. Background on more than 130 Italian cheeses paired with wine, cheese and fruit combinations, glossary of terms, phonetic pronunciation, regions of origin and so much more.

“Friends of Wine” (2013) by Michael Belardo. Friends of Wine represents Belardo’s personal collection of photographs taken through the years of people in and associated with the international wine business. Great photos!

Now for my “booze” recommendations to drink while reading:

Mayfair London Dry Gin (England) 86 proof. Juniper-filled bouquet along with lemon and rosemary. Medium-bodied and full of flavor with subtle hints of lemon, orange peel and a delicate creaminess in the finish. Superb gin … one of the best I’ve tried lately.

Lighthouse Gin (New Zealand) 84 proof. “Batch Distilled from 100 percent Sugar Cane.” Heavy juniper-perfumed bouquet with tones of sage, pine and citrus. Herbal tasting with hints of peach, orange, lime, lemon and pine, Quite smooth with little burn.

McCarthy’s Single Malt Whiskey (Oregon) “pot distilled” (Peat Malted Scottish barley). Aged three years. 85 proof. Medium-full peated nose (reminds one of Laphroaig) with smoke and leather. Flavors of citrus, orange, leather and black pepper. It’s not a Scotch, but pair it against a smoky one.

Bob Lipinski, a local author, has written 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need to Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He conducts training seminars on wine, spirits and food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at OR

By Bob Lipinski

Laird’s is America’s first and oldest commercial distillery. Records indicate that William Laird, a County Fyfe Scotsman, settled in Monmouth County, N.J., and produced applejack as early as 1698. In 1780, Robert Laird, a Revolutionary War soldier who served under George Washington, established Laird’s Distillery (License #1) in the tiny community of Scobeyville, N.J.

Applejack is an 80-proof brandy made from apples such as Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Rome, Winesap, Fuji, Stayman, Pippins, Granny Smith, Gala, Macintosh and Jonathan. It is estimated that about 7,000 pounds of apples are needed to make one 50-gallon barrel of apple brandy and about six pounds are needed to make one 750-ml (25.4-ounce) bottle of 80-proof applejack. Laird’s also makes a 100-proof apple brandy labeled Jersey Lighting, which is made from about 20 pounds of apples! By the way, applejack was originally distilled from frozen fermented apple cider, a process called jacking.

Laird’s 80-proof applejack is a blend of 35 percent apple brandy and 66 percent neutral grain spirits. Under U.S. law, it must be aged for two years, but Laird’s is aged for a minimum of three years in charred oak barrels. It is dry and full of deep, rich apple aroma and flavor. Very smooth in the mouth with a caramel finish and an ultra-smooth finish (meaning no burn).

Jersey Lighting is a term dating back to the mid-1800s for applejack, which was made in New Jersey. The brandy is clear in color with an unmistakable perfumed aroma of cider followed by a rich, dry apple taste, subtle, yet full of flavor. I like it either in a brandy snifter or sometimes on the rocks while listening to relaxing music. Applejack is also perfect for hot apple drinks and cocktails, such as Jack Rose and the Pink Lady.

The Jack Rose Cocktail (see recipe below) was supposedly named after “Bald Jack” Rose, a gangster who turned state’s evidence after the killing of Herman Rosenthal in a bar in Times Square in 1912. The Pink Lady Cocktail (see recipe below) was named after a play in 1911 of the same name and starring Hazel Dawn. In 1944, the Pink Lady enjoyed a revival in the play “Happy Birthday” in which Helen Hayes danced on the bar top after several drinks, including the Pink Lady.

Laird’s applejack is excellent for basting or creating a glaze for your turkey and is an essential ingredient for stuffing, which is generally made with apples. Simply add 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup applejack to your stuffing prior to cooking. That’s it… “Here’s to Apples.”

Jack Rose Cocktail

INGREDIENTS: 2 ounces applejack

1 ounce lemon juice

1/2 ounce grenadine

DIRECTIONS: Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Pink Lady Cocktail
Pink Lady Cocktail

Pink Lady Cocktail

INGREDIENTS: 1-1/2 ounces gin 1/2 ounce applejack 1/2 ounce lemon juice 1/4 ounce grenadine 1 egg white

DIRECTIONS: Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Bob Lipinski, a local author, has written 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need to Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He conducts training seminars on wine, spirits and food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at OR

Prior to the 14th century, vodka was used mainly in perfumes and cosmetics.

By Bob Lipinski

“I never have more than one drink before dinner,” said Bond. “But I do like that one to be very large and very strong and very cold and very well-made.” — James Bond, “Casino Royale” (when referring to a martini)

Vodka is an alcoholic beverage distilled at or above 190 proof and bottled at not less than 80 proof (except in the case of flavored vodkas). According to the U.S. standards of identity, U.S.-made vodka must be “without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color.” However, no federal regulations require vodka to be entirely without aroma or taste; therefore, some vodkas display distinctive characteristics in aroma and taste.

Vodka seems to have first appeared in either Russia or Poland around the twelfth century, when it was known as zhizenennia voda (water of life) in the Russian monastery-fort of Viatka. The word vodka comes from the Russian word for water, voda, or the Polish word wódka — in Polish the w has a v sound. The suffix “ka” was added to the root word centuries later. By the fourteenth century, vodka began to be used as a beverage; formerly, it was mainly used in perfumes and cosmetics. The early vodkas were strongly flavored and therefore it became a common practice to add herbs, spices, and fruits to mask the sometimes harsh, raw taste. Vodka is generally made from grains — barley, corn, rice, rye, wheat — although sugar beets, grapes, maple syrup, molasses, plums, potatoes, and sugarcane can be used. Actually, vodka can be made from virtually any ingredient that contains starch or sugar.

I like vodka served directly from the freezer Arctic-cold, served in Y-shaped glasses or ryumochki (small shot glasses) and downed in one gulp. A vodka martini, with plenty of ice, some dry vermouth and olives gets me going. By the way, vodka won’t freeze because of the high alcohol level and it will be instantly at the right temperature for mixing your favorite cocktail without melting the ice cubes.

Everyone has their favorite vodka brands and I’m no exception. I especially enjoy Boru (Ireland), Luksusowa (Poland), Monopolowa (Austria), Moskovskaya (Russia), Stolichnaya Elite (Russia), Zubrówka (Slavic Countries) and Zyr (Russia). I recently tasted three new vodkas, which I will certainly add to my list: Mayfair Vodka, made in London, England, is a refreshing aroma, with citrus and anise hints; incredibly smooth, well-balanced finish. The second is Leaf Vodka, which is made from two unique waters. Both are refined and quite smooth with “no burn.” Leaf Alaskan Glacial Water (80 proof): Hints of white pepper; floral, roses; nice smooth aftertaste. Leaf Rocky Mountain Mineral Water (80 proof): Aroma of vanilla, fruity and herbal; great texture and clean finish. The third is Khortytsa Platinum (Ukraine): Lemon- clean aroma with hints of citrus and orange peel; ultra-smooth tasting.

Drop me a line and let me know your favorite.

Bob Lipinski, a local author, has written ten books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at OR

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Brie is a very versatile cheese and pairs nicely with a multitude of wines. Stock photo

By Bob Lipinski

“How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?”  — Charles de Gaulle, 1890–1970, President of France, 1962 speech

According to popular legend, Emperor Charlemagne supposedly first tasted Brie in around 774 at a monastery and fell in love with its creamy flavors and inviting texture. There are stories that put Brie’s beginnings several hundred years earlier, but those cannot be proven.

At the Congress of Vienna (1814–1815) a jury of ambassadors each brought a cheese from their respective countries for a judging. France’s statesman, Talleyrand, brought Brie and after a vote, the conference delegates proclaimed it the King of Cheeses.

Brie, which is a double-crème, cow’s milk cheese is made in the French province of Brie, in the department of Seine-et-Marne, northeast of Paris, although it is also made in the United States and other countries. Brie is similar to Camembert (France), Coulommiers (France), Crèma Danica (Denmark) and Paglia (Italy).

The term Brie covers a small family of cheeses, which carry the name of the town or village where they are made. The finest Brie is generally considered to be Brie de Meaux while another variety is Brie de Melun.

Prior to aging, the small or large wheels of cheese are washed with a salt brine, then rubbed or sprayed with a culture of pure-white mold spores. After that, the cheeses are taken to the curing room for many months of aging. Brie has a thin, edible, white rind, with a creamy yellow interior.

When Brie begins to get old, the white rind turns brown and an odor of ammonia can be detected. Its texture is soft and smooth, almost honey-like, but definitely not runny. It is mild to pungent tasting with hints of mushrooms, cognac, heavy cream, nuts and even truffles. After one hour or so opened at room temperature, Brie becomes runny with a buttery and earthy flavor and is quite spreadable. It is sometimes flavored with herbs, peppers and mushrooms.

I generally serve Brie at room temperature, and for guests, with the aid of a sharp knife, I remove the top rind and immediately brush the cheese with lemon juice. Next I spread a thin layer of apricot or peach preserves, followed by raisins previously soaked in white wine, in the center. Spread slivered almonds or pecans in a circular fashion around the raisins. Place in a 425 F oven for approximately 7 to 10 minutes. Remove and let rest for 10 minutes, then serve with crackers.

Brie is a very versatile cheese and pairs nicely with a multitude of wines including some reds — Beaujolais, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, grenache, merlot, pinot noir and zinfandel. White wines include chardonnay, chenin blanc, Gewürztraminer, riesling and sauvignon blanc. Let’s not forget Champagne and sparkling wines.

Two New York State Finger Lakes wines I recently paired with Brie were:

Standing Stone 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon: Bright ruby colored with aromas of wild cherry, red candy and spicy blueberries. Should develop into a stunning wine.

Standing Stone 2014 Dry Vidal: Vidal is a white French hybrid of Ugni Blanc and Rayon d’Or, developed in 1929 by Jean-Louis Vidal. The wine has an aroma of grapefruit, kiwi and peaches. It has plenty of acidity, which keeps it clean and crisp tasting. Definitely one of the best dry Vidal wines I have encountered!

Bob Lipinski, a local author, has written 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need to Know About Vodka, Gin, Rum & Tequila” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He conducts training seminars on wine, spirits and food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at or