Sep 13

Spirit Lab: The Greenbar Distillery

Me & Melkon Green BarI first experienced GreenBar Spirits upon starting my new job as Beverage Director at The Muddy Leek  in Los Angeles. My 1st week was all about trying to figure out what my predecessor had left for me and where to go from there.  I noticed we were running low on our house rum, and before placing an order to restock I decided to try the stuff on our “reserve shelf”. I saw there was a rum called Carusoe. It caught my eye for three reasons: 1. It is organic, and so is our restaurant, 2. It is produced locally, and we are a farm to table concept, & 3. As an ex-Miami girl it reminded me of David Caruso from CSI Miami, and I am a lady that LOVES a bad crime show. And then I tasted it and I was blown away. As an ex-Floridian I pretty much grew up on rum, but this was so smooth, aromatic, and inviting!!!! I was hooked and had to know more about this Greenbar Distillery.

Recently  Dave and I had the privilege of touring the Greenbar Distillery in Downtown Los Angeles. We were guided by the Green Bar Pot Stillvery charismatic Melkon Khosrovian, Co-Owner of this Willy Wonka Factory for Adults. Upon arriving I was hit with the most amazing waft of citrus, only to later find out they had just been hand zesting tons of local organic oranges to be used in their Fruitlab Orange Liqueur. Melkon first took us to his stills. They have one classic Pot Still which up to this point has been churning out the bulk of their production, and they just acquired a Continuous Fractionating Column Still, which will allow them to have much more control over the finished product so that they can fully actualize the flavors they have steeping in their brains. The rest of this area is full of about twelve stainless steel, temperature controlled fermentation vats, similar to the ones that are used in wine production…. this is where all of the flavor magic happens. I felt like a kid in a candy store.

We chatted about how Greenbar came to be, and why he uses only local and organic fruits and botanicals. It turns out it all happened quite “organically”. There was not that Eureka moment where he and his wife woke up and said, today we are diving head first in to the spirits industry. It all started with a need for flavor. Basically he began infusing base spirits to create something that would satisfyColoum Still his wife’s discriminating palate. The couple soon became so good at creating tasty brews they could hardly keep up with the growing demand of their friends and family. And soon a company was born. The organic happened next and was also born purely out of a need for flavor. They had ordered a batch of celery and noticed that it was greener and more aromatic than the rest of the celery they had used. They were thrown for a loop. It totally changed their product. They went back to the farmer to inquire where this super celery came from, and he explained that in order to save their land they had gone organic. Suddenly a light bulb went on. They soon began using all organic produce, and sure enough their product was better and more consistent than it had ever been. This concept soon snowballed for them, and Greenbar was born. Now they are so green, that every time you have a cocktail made with Greenbar products you actually  reduce your carbon footprint by one day. So another great reason to stop by Muddy Leek, you can have one of my Greenbar based cocktails and feel better about yourself by saving the world the tastiest way possible. You may be trying to figure out this carbon footprint math so I will break it down for you. They work with all certified organic ingredients, which helps keep the farmland, the water and the consumers free of artificial fertilizers, synthetic pesticides, and GMOs. And as someone who just spend some time in the Rio Grande Valley of TX, where the water is so laden with pesticides it is undrinkable, I can not stress the importance of organic farming practices. They also use lightweight bottles, which uses less fuel to transport. They use 100% PCW recycled labels, and avoid using frosting or metallic paints which cause pollution. And my favorite thing is they plant one tree in Central American rain forests for every bottle sold. This is not only to replenish the forests, but also to provide shade for coffee and cocoa farmers to grow better products, and support their family.  So the equation is One person makes 121 lbs of CO2 daily + Greenbar cocktail is -137 lbs CO2= -16 lbs CO2. So when you drink GreenBar products, we all win!

Melkon then brought us to the tasting room, which is my favorite part! He first mixed up a delightful Ixa tequila, lime, and barkeepbitters_lavenderspice_Thumbpoppy tequila concoction. (Ixa is the only product not made on premises. It has to be made in Mexico, because it is much less green to uproot the Agave and truck it CA, and there is a good chance it would rot on the way, so Melkon makes an annual trip to Mexico to whip up this tasty Tequila.) We chatted about how when thinking of new products he is constantly chatting with bartenders and mixologists to come up with things that make the industry better and easier for us. He also explained his Bar Keep bitters program, where he actually holds an annual competition for bartenders across the country to submit their own bitters recipes, and whichever one wins gets added to the line, with the bartender getting a cut of each bottle sold — He may be seeing a Sara Kay submission next year 😉 So far there are: Apple, from Marshall Altier in New York, NY; Chinese, from Josh Loving in Austen TX; Fennel, from Adam Stemmler & Dustin Haarstad in San Diego, CA; and Lavender, from Tobin Eliis  & John Hogan in Las Vegas NV & Baltimore MD.

We then got down to the business of tasting the full line, and some specialty projects, like his truffle vodka that Melkon made for a truorganic_vodka_Thumbspirits dinner early on in his journey. That is one expensive shot for a discriminating palate ;). We tasted through the entire line of TRU vodkas: Straight, Lemon, Garden, and Vanilla. I appreciated that the infusions where not heavy-handed and did not taste synthetic, because they are not.There are tons of tasty cocktails that can be borne of these, and they were also highly enjoyable on their own, especially the garden, it reminded me of a less aggressive gin.

Speaking of Gin, our next stop was Tru Gin which has a honeyed color because they choose to make it in the fashion of the 16th century by macerating the botanicals in alcohol. They refer to it as Renaissance Gin, and it definitely offers a depth of flavor and is richer than most modern gins on the market. Their chosen botanical bunch is: Juniper, lemon, lavender, angelica, orris, coriander, vanilla, cardamom, clove, fennel, cinnamon, allspice, chamomile, & star anise…. and love.

We tasted  the IXÁ Organic Tequila on its own, and it erased all feelings of tequila I had stored up from a miss-sipped Green Bar Collective - Ixa Tequilayouth. And by miss-sipped I mean shots of rot gut te-kill-ya. This tequila is made with 100% organic blue heartland agave. This is a creamy tequila, with notes of thyme and clay. It is a fantastic sipper, and would be a great base for herbal cocktails. Melkon explained this was such a smooth sipper because they start with organic mature agave, which is sweeter and more flavorful. They quarter and steam the cactii in clay ovens for three days to caramelize the sugars, and then press the cooked agave and ferment the juice with a high ratio of agave fiber, and white wine yeast for a fuller flavor.  They then double distill it in an alembic pot still to taste, in super small batches. This deviates from the te-kill-ya production in that most large modern producers harvest young agave, then pressure cook it in stainless steel, they also only ferment the agave juice so you are not getting the richness from the fibers, and then they distill to maximum output.

We moved on to Slow Hand Organic Whiskey which is a white whiskey. It will confuse your average whiskey sipper, as it slowhand_whiskey_Thumbin not aged in charred oak, and glowing with hints of amber, and sweet nuttiness. Most aged whiskeys are made to highlight the distillers use of oak and blending, this one on the other hand is meant to highlight the grains (organic oats, barley, & spelt) to be exact), and that it does. It smells like cream and oats, and the barley gives it a nice nuttiness in the mid pallet. This is a great sipping whiskey, and would also be fun in a whiskey flight as a starter.

Crusoe Organic Rum (both silver and spiced) were up to bat next. I am familiar with the silver as it is the base of my cocktail the Celia at the Muddy Leek. I was originally drawn to this rum because it has more body and layers then most silver rums and is not overly sweet.  It turns out this line was inspired by Robinson Crusoe, and they combine Caribbean-style molasses, with California style fermentation.  For both rums they ferment molasses in temperature controlled tanks, with white wine yeast. Extended fermentation, and double distillation cursoerum_white_Thumb allows for fuller richer flavors. At this point their production varies a bit. For the Silver they use micro oxygenation, a technique common in the wine industry, they do this in place of oak aging the rum, which can strip it of some of its natural notes. For the Spiced they macerated whole cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla, orange zest, Osmanthus flower, and molasses over a 3-4 week period, since they are dealing with whole ingredients, no two batches behave the same, so they taste each batch daily and add or subtract from the maceration until it reaches the desired symphony of flavors. Both of these rums make me think twice about dumping in a bunch of sugar and crushed mint.

We ended the evening exploring the Fruitlab Organic Liqueurs. I was already familiar with the Grand Poppy which is a California inspired take on classic European aperitives.  I used it as the mid-pallet note in my Celia cocktail, along with the Crusoe Silver Rum. It is bitter-sweet and honeyed. It is a blend of California poppy, orange, lemon, grapefruit, bearberry, California bay leaf, pink peppercorn, grandpoppy_btl_thumbdandelion, blessed thistle, burdock rue, artichoke, gentian, geranium, cherry bark, and cane sugar. And it shows. There is also Ginger, Hibiscus, Jasmine, & Orange. They are all amazing, and a mixologist’s friend, as they have a huge depth of flavor without being syrupy sweet.

It was such a treat to meet Melkon and taste his full portfolio. I know I will be proudly using GreenBar in any beverage programs I design, and I encourage all of you to as well… for your home bars. Not only are all of the products truly tasty, but they are all local, organic, & sustainable! And the more we as a market demand this, the more it will become available.

Cheers to GreenBar!

As a Parting tidbit I will share my Celia recipe.  I encourage you to try this at home!!! But if you are near Culver City then you can just stop in to The Muddy Leek (8631 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232) and I’ll mix one up for you.


The Celia Muddy Leek Logo

  • 2 oz Crusoe RumCelia
  • ½ Grand Poppy
  • 1 oz Lime
  • ½ Spicy cucumber syrup
  • ½ Simple syrup
  • 6 drops of Orange Blossom Water
  • Drop in a pickled sweet pepper, orange zest & mint in a Collins Glass with an Ice Spear
  • Shake & Strain Drink Mixture into The Collins Glass
  • Top with Club Soda

If you would like to contact GreenBar for more info,  or check out more tasty recipes here is how:


GreenBar Collective
2459 E 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90021
(213) 375-3668

Feb 13

Sara Kay’s Meatballs of Glory!

Queen Bean PotAbout: Meatballs are found in almost every culture, and can be dated back to 700 BC. They are, in essence, portable baby meatloafs. The purpose is to cut meat with other protein, starches, and veggies, to boost their nutrient value while stretching the meat. I have been a huge lover of meatballs forever — however, when my husband discovered his gluten allergy, I had to figure out how to adjust my recipe to accommodate.  This is my low carb, gluten-free version of a Southern Italian meatball.

Prep Time: 10 min

Cook Time: 30 min at 375 °

 Difficulty: Easy

Servings: 6 (4 balls each)

Calories per serving: 433

Carbs Per Serving: 2

Best Pairing: This really depends on what sauce you are serving the meatballs with… but assuming you are using a fresh tomato-based sauce, there is no better way to go than a rootie-tootie fresh and fruity red such as  Negroamaro from Puglia. The best part is that you can usually find one of  these at a wine store for that $10 sweet spot!

Tools Needed: Meatball Prep

  • Frying pan
  • Knife
  • Cutting board
  • Spatula
  • Bowl
  • Baking dish
  • Your hands
  • Latex gloves (Optional)

IngredientsMeatball bowl

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 small onion finely diced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of shredded pecorino
  • 1 cup of shredded parmesan
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 tbl saltMeatball Kneeding
  • 1 tbl black pepper
  • 1 tbl extra virgin olive oil

How To: 

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 375°
  2. Dice your onions and mince your garlic
  3. Heat frying pan on medium heat with 1/3 of your olive oil in it
  4. Add onions and cook til translucent, stirring often (about 3 min). Add your garlic for the last 30 secs to open up its aromatics
  5. Remove to bowlMeatball Balls of Joy
  6. Roughly chop your parsley and add to bowl
  7. Add the rest of the ingredients to bowl
  8. Put on gloves (if you wish), I find with gloves it helps keep the meat from sticking to my hands, helping me form the perfect ball.
  9. Knead all of the goods with your hands until fully integrated
  10. Use the rest of your olive oil to coat your baking dish
  11. Form the meat mixture into 1″ balls and place with a bit of space between them in the dish
  12. Place in the oven and bake for 25-30 min (until tops are browned)
  13. Serve with your favorite greens, & sauce.
    • For a great recipe for fresh sauce check out The Puglian Cookbook by Viktorija Todorovaska http://www.facebook.com/ThePuglianCookbook
    • Tip: If you do not eat all of these in one setting, you can keep them in the refrigerator for up to a week. I sometimes like them for lunch with a little spicy ketchup.

Meatballs finished I hope this dish hits the Spot!

As always, feel free to share, or ask me any questions you may have.



Nov 12

Spirit Lab Gin Show – Holiday Cocktails Made With Martin Miller’s Gin

5The Man:  A larger than life entrepreneur, and inventor of Martin Miller gin.  He started out in youth with enterprises like breeding hamsters and making a mail-order book called “Success with the Fairer Sex.” He has had many more lucrative businesses since then, and in 1998 while sitting in a bar with his friends, sipping on sub-par gin and ,he hatched the plan to create the Best Gin Imaginable. He seems to be having some success at reaching his goal.

The Philosophy: Obsessive attention to every last detail is his secret ingredient. (A man after my own heart)

The Method:

  • Single Pot Still (His is named Angela)miller 008
  • Uses only central cuts (The Hearts)
  • Steeps his botanicals loosely (like loose tea, instead of a tea bag)
    • Juniper
    • Coriander
    • Angelica (Finland)
    • Lime Peel
    • Licorice Root
    • Cassia Bark
    • Florence Iris
  • Chilled & bottled in Iceland with “Living Water”. (His description of why it was important to use mineral water over distilled water reminded me very much of the principals of terroir that we discuss with wine)

Check out his full story at: www.martinmillersgin.com or follow them on twitter @MartinMillerGin

Todays Cocktails & Tasting Notes:

Martin Miller Neat:

Glass: Rocks, or Snifter

  • 2oz Martin Miller’s Gin
  • Drop of water

Note: This is a wonderfully layered gin that is light and floral on the nose, and earthy and zesty on the pallet. It is a perfect sipping gin!

Pink Gin:

MM-Pink Gin

Glass: Chilled Martini

  • 2 Oz Martin Miller’s Gin
  • 4 Drops of Angostura Bitters

How To: Swirl the bitters in a chilled Martini glass, add the gin, and a twist of lemon for garnish.

Note: This is a slow sipping spicy cocktail with hints of nutmeg. This was first created by the British Navy in the 1870’s.


Martin Miller’s favorite holiday cocktail is a French 75, but as I am currently on a starving artist’s budget, I made some adjustments:

Starving Artist 75

Starving Artist 75

Glass: Chilled Champagne Flute

  • 1/4 oz Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 oz Martin Miller’s Gin
  • 1/4 oz Torres’s Orange Brandy
  • 5 oz Cava

How To: Pour Lemon Juice, Gin, & Brandy in a shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into a chilled Champagne Flute. Pour in the Cava, garnish with a lemon slice

Notes: This is like a fancy meyer lemon pop! This was 1st created by me in my house this week, but inspired by a classic cocktail from the New York café in Paris in 1915.


MM- Orange Blossom

Orange Blossom:

Glass: Chilled Martini

  • How To: Pour ingredients into a shaker with ice, shake well, strain into a martini glass, garnish with an orange peel.1 1/2 oz Martin Miller’s Gin
  • 1/2 oz Orange Juice
  • 2 Dashes of key lime juice
  • 2 dashes of simple syrup.

Note: This is a medium bodied orange-centric cocktail with notes of honey and basil. This was featured in The Waldorf Astoria’s Bar Book of 1935


Tip on Lemon Twists:

  • Use a nice sharp veggie peeler and peel off long constant strips
  • With a sharp knife cut the peel in to ribbons of what ever width best suits your cocktail.
  • Roll them in to tight spirals and let them set for at least 1/2 hr so that they save their shape


Starving Artist 75 As always I would love it if you would share your stories regarding these recipes, and never hesitate to ask me questions.

Have a great Thanksgiving, and cheers to a nice glass of “Dutch Courage”!

Oct 12

Sara Kay’s White Beans & Bacon

About: This is my take on a tasty fall time Medieval English dish. It is great as a meal, or a side, and if you follow a low-carb diet is surprisingly healthy.

 Prep Time:10 min

Cook Time: 10 min

Difficulty : Easy

Serves: 2 meal/ 6 side

Best Pairings:

B&G Vouvray 2009 The silky pair and bruised golden apple notes are perfect companion to this heart warming dish, and the racing acidity helps cut the fat.

Game of Thrones!


  • Large Sauce Pan (I used at Le Cruset Cast Iron Pot)
  • Cutting Board
  • Knife
  • Tongs
  • Spatula


  • 4 pieces thick center cut bacon, roughly chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage (I used the bagged coleslaw mix w/ carrot shreds from the grocery store… it is a cheap tasty time saver)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 cups white beans/ rinsed (Cannellini, usually in the “ethnic” isle at the store)
  • Salt   (I always use Maldon Sea Salt!!)
  • Pepper



  • Cook bacon over medium to high heat in a large saucepan until crisp.(Tip: You know it is cooked when it starts to foam)
  •  Remove bacon from pan and set on paper towel to drain.
  • Add onion to drippings, and sauté till tender.
  • Add half the cabbage and cover pot, cooking until cabbage is wilted.
  • Add remaining cabbage and garlic, stir and cooked till endive is wilted.
  • Add beans and bacon, cooking until the beans are heated through, stirring often.
  •  Season with salt and pepper and serve.
 Let me know if this dish hits the spot!