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December Wine Club Means Time to Celebrate!

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It’s here! The last Wine Club of 2018! As we do each December, we chose two wines that embody the celebratory spirit of the Holidays.

We picked a stunning Cava from Penedés, and a classic vintage of Rioja, both of which are in Spain. And for the complimentary gift, a “chocotone,” a play on the classic Latin American favorite Panettone.

The cava is from a producer called Balma, and is a brut nature, meaning no sugar is added during dosage. As such, it’s a perfect match for oysters! It’s a classic blend of 50% xarel.lo, 40% macabeo, and 10% parellada, the white grapes most common in Penedes.

The story of how cava came to be is a great one! In the late 19th century, a winemaker named Joan Raventos found himself in Champagne while attempting to sell his still red wine. He loved the sparkling wine of the region so much, that he sold the rest of his wine and bought all the equipment he would need to produce sparkling wine in his hometown of Penedés. He eventually convinced his neighbors to get on board during meetings they would hold every Sunday after mass. And the rest is history!

As we mentioned, the Rioja is from a classic vintage, 2009. It’s produced by La Gitana, a winery you may recognize for their sherry. The wine is just entering its prime now. You could certainly hold it for at least another decade if you wanted, but we think it’s really showing well right now. As with most Rioja, please, please, please make sure to allow it time to breathe. This is a wine for a decanter. If you don’t have one, we recommend opening it a full day before you plan to drink it - just make sure you pour a small amount into a glass so there’s enough surface area to actually make a difference.

As we did with November, we’ve moved the release party up so that you can have the wines for the holidays. The party will be this Sunday, from 1 to 7pm, and some friends will join us! We’ll have food from Peruvian Brothers, who’s delicious hot sauce we carry at the store, as well as Estebe and Kim from Tradewinds, one of our favorite distributors!

See you Sunday, and Happy Holidays!

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Dulce de Leche - Latin America's Favorite Sweet!

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Perhaps no single treat is more synonymous with Latin America than Dulce de Leche. If you’ve never had it, you are missing out! Luckily, it’s both easy to find and easy to make, and has a nearly infinite number of delicious ways to eat it.

What is dulce de leche? Essentially, it is caramelized milk. If you’ve had condensed milk, imagine something a little sweeter, thicker, and darker in color. The most common base recipe is milk, sugar, and vanilla, but a super simple way to make it is by punching a few holes in the top of a can of condensed milk dropping it into a saucepan, pouring water three quarters of the way up the can, and boiling it for three to four hours, or until brown. Different countries, regions and cultures have slight variations, and of course everyone who makes dulce de leche has their own little tricks!

Many theories exist as to who invented it. However, with this post we’re going to celebrate how it’s a shared cultural treasure across many countries by showcasing a different use for it in a few different places!

Argentina - Alfajor

To say that Argentina loves dulce de leche would be a huge understatement. However, the famous Alfajor, two crispy wafers stuffed with Dulce de Leche and then smothered in either chocolate or tangy meringue, takes the cake for us!

Uruguay - Alfajor

Yes, we know! Argentina is not the only country that loves Alfajores. Uruguay has an absolutely delicious version with softer, fluffier cookies sandwiching dulce de leche, all sprinkled with shaved coconut. Yum!

Peru - Suspiro de Limeña

How could we not choose something with such a poetic name! Literally meaning “the sigh of a woman from Lima,” this unique dessert consists of a layer of manjar blanco (the Peruvian version of dulce de leche) thickened with egg yokes topped by stiff port wine meringue, all served in a glass so you can see the beautiful layers!

Mexico - Churros con Cajeta

Cajeta is not a specific use of dulce de leche, per se. Instead, it’s a spread that is very similar that is usually made with goat’s milk instead of cow’s milk. It generally has a darker color, and is often mixed with other flavors such as chocolate or cinnamon. Mexicans love to eat it by breaking off pieces of fresh Churros and dipping it in cajeta.

Chile - Milhojas

We had to include this one, because it’s Julio’s favorite dessert! The name means “a thousand leaves.” Layers of puff pastry and manjar (they also call it this in Chile) alternate over and over until a cake forms. The dessert is then often topped with chopped walnuts.

Brazil - Brigaderios

Imagine a small ball of dulce de leche about the size of a truffle, with a consistency more akin to fudge, rolled in chocolate sprinkles, then dropped into decorative gold foil. Now imagine how amazing that must taste!

Colombia - Arequipe Latte

Colombia called dulce de leche “arequipe,” and they use it in about as many different ways as possible. But the thought of a perfectly brewed cup of Colombian coffee mixed with steamed milk and drizzled with arequipe was too much to pass up for this piece!

We could keep going for pages! Dulche de leche, manjar, arequipe, cajeta, no matter what you call it, is a beautifully simple, delicious, and comfortingly rich treat that spans all of Latin America that we just love at Grand Cata!

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Gifts For Home Bartenders

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A home bar is one of adulthood’s great pleasures. It gives you access to ingredients you know you like, and the opportunity to play around and craft cocktails that fit your tastes. And, crucially, you can take your time! A bartender at a restaurant has only minutes to put an order together, but you’ve got all the time in the world.


Thing is, building a home bar is a step by step process. Sure, you could buy everything at once, up to and including the actual bar. In reality, a true home bar, one with character, history, and memories, comes together piece by piece.

So, if you know someone building up a home bar, here are some suggestions we have that will fit anyone’s set up.

The Basics

If they’re really just starting out, then the most important pieces are a stirring spoon, mixing glass, shaker, a jigger (for measuring) and a strainer. The most versatile piece is the shaker, so if you’re picking just one, go with that. And don’t worry that someone else has thought of any of these, too. A good bar needs multiple of each of these tools!


The Upgrades

If they’ve already got plenty of the above, then consider some next level ideas. For instance, a great book of recipes. We love “The Curious Bartender” by Tristan Stephenson because it not only has recipes, but details some of the theory underpinning modern mixology.

Some other nice upgrades include a standard peeler, and a citrus twist peeler, booth of which are crucial for any home bartender’s garnish game. For lovers of the classic dry martini, we have have super sturdy, washable stainless steel olive skewers.

Drink Ingredients

Nothing takes a good drink to great faster than the right bitters! We’ve got all sorts of different types, from the classic “aromatic” bitters for Manhattans and Old Fashioneds, to different herbal concoctions, and even some floral ones. Scrappy Bitters’ lavender flavor works exceptionally well with tequila based drinks!

Bitters are not the only special ingredients at a home bartender’s disposal. We’ve also got cocktail cherries, grenadine, different juices, tonic water, even Gin & Tonic infusers! Wine Club members might remember that last one as their monthly gifts.

We hope this gets your creative juices flowing on gift ideas. If you have any questions about any of our cocktail stuff, we’d love to answer them. Happy Holidays!



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