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Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Some 75 attendees enjoyed fantastic cocktails, noshed on delicious food and learned a lot about mixology at the second annual Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Championship, held at the Purple Palm Restaurant at the Colony Palms Restaurant on Thursday, Jan. 25.

The five competing bartenders were given the task of making a special, brand new drink with the sponsor liquor, Crown Royal Bourbon Mash Blended Canadian Whisky. First, they had to make one-ounce sips for attendees, and then they had to make five full-sized drinks from the judges and the host, Jimmy Boegle, of the Coachella Valley Independent.

Hunter Broggi, a relative desert newcomer who works as a restaurant manager at Lulu California Bistro, was named this year’s champion thanks to his drink, Lulu’s Smokin’ Crown, beating a talented field that included Rob Nightingale, of Moxie Palm Springs; Bryan Palmer, of the Purple Palm; and last season’s champion, Sherman Chan, of TRIO Restaurant.

Rob Learned, of Giuseppes Palm Springs, was voted the Audience Favorite.

The judges—Leslie Barclay, of Southern Glazer/Pacific Wine and Spirits Of California; Brad Fuhr, of Gay Desert Guide; Chris Reutz, of the Desert AIDS Project; and Mike Thompson, of the LGBT Community Center of the Desert—gave high marks to all of the bartenders’ creations.

The event was sponsored by the Purple Palm Restaurant, Crown Royal Bourbon Mash Blended Canadian Whisky and Gay Desert Guide. The event’s beneficiaries are the Desert AIDS Project and the LGBT Community Center of the Desert.

Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week continues at 12 bars and restaurants across the valley through Saturday, Jan. 27.

Scroll down to see some photos from the event, by Kevin Fitzgerald.

Published in Snapshot

After an off-season back East, I’m back in the Coachella Valley, with a new bar gig and more-reliable transportation—meaning I am ready to search once more for the tastiest drinks in the area!

Sadly, most of the places I visited this month were a bit … disappointing. In particular, there were two cocktails I tried at a “high-end” establishment that were actually tough to finish (and $20 each!).

Fortunately, I had much better luck at Window Bar at the brand-spankin’ new Kimpton Rowan Hotel Palm Springs. Not only is the design of the place pretty breathtaking; this diminutive bar in the lobby also makes a mean drink. After looking over the menu for a bit (there are some interesting ingredients on there, including local dates), I went with the Dealer’s Choice. Bartender Bryan Bruce was in a classical mood and made me an excellent martinez cocktail with a nice chinato, an aromatized Barolo wine with a pleasant bitterness that makes beautiful cocktails. If you’re wondering what a martinez is … well, it’s basically gin and Italian vermouth with bitters and a spoon full of sweetener (usually Boker’s and Maraschino respectively). Some folks think it’s the martini’s absentee dad, but I respectfully disagree—and Maury Povich doesn’t have the paternity results yet.

For my friend who was on a vodka-soda kick (I know, I know), Bryan indeed made a vodka soda—but it was a pretty cool vodka soda: The soda water was infused with local juniper branches and lemon zest, and carbonated à la minùte in a plastic soda bottle. (You have to see this glass contraption they use to infuse things; it’s straight out of Harry Potter.) The drink itself occupied a nice middle ground between a gin-and-tonic and a vodka soda. There are two more bars on the property, but I saved those for my next visit.

I also checked out the new offerings at Moxie, where they’ve created a pretty extensive list of cocktails these days. Bar-manager Blake gave us a sneak peak at his “poptails,” which combine a cocktail with a popsicle on a skewer, which serves as a garnish and/or snack. We tried the Pretty in Pink Pop Drop first. This is not intended for whiskey-swilling bearded dudes like me. It certainly was pretty, and pink, and will definitely appeal to less-hardcore drinkers, thanks to its flavors of vanilla and the super-fragrant Combier Liqueur de Rose, replete with sugared rim and strawberry basil lychee pop.

Next, the Desert Sun was reminiscent of an Oaxacan old fashioned, with mezcal, tequila and sweeteners, but served up. The mango-serrano popsicle, when it was mostly dissolved, added some needed brightness. Blake responded: “It’s a drink that rewards patience.” In any case, it’s nice to see someone having some fun designing their cocktails.

While we’re on the subject, let’s discuss that deceptively simple drink, which is perfect for winter get-togethers—the old fashioned.

First of all, what the heck is an old fashioned, anyway? The old fashioned is a callback to the early days of cocktail—booze, bitters and sugar. The cocktail, without getting too bogged down in historical details, was consumed in the morning as a hangover cure. Later, cocktails moved in a more-elegant direction, but certain drinkers still wanted that old standby.

Notice that I have mentioned nothing about a cherry or an orange slice—or muddling, or even ice. That doesn’t make those additions “wrong,” per se (certainly not the ice!), but they’re not necessary. So we’re going to strip things down here and go back to basics.

Here’s what you need:

• Rye whiskey, or bourbon

• Sugar (white or raw—no brown sugar)

• Bitters (Angostura, in the brown bottle with the white label)

• Ice (cubed—large cube for extra credit, but certainly not necessary)

Take the sugar, and mix it equal parts with water. You can heat it to mix, and then cool the mixture; or you can shake it in a bottle and let it sit. That’s the only “hard” part here. (I won’t get into the sugar-versus-syrup debate here, because this is the 101 class; we can get nerdy some other time.)

Take a short, wide glass, and lash in a couple of good slugs of those bitters. (Don’t be shy.) Then put that sugar syrup in there; until you know just how sweetened you like it, start with one teaspoon. Then add 2 ounces of the whiskey—just pour it right in. Add plenty of ice, and stir until seasoned. You’re done.

Of course, you can make it look and taste better with a little citrus oil. Do you have a lemon, an orange or even a grapefruit? Take off a nice swath of zest with a peeler or a knife, and squeeze the oils over the drink; then rub it on the outside glass. Toss it in … or don’t. (Just be careful with that peeler; I don’t need any lawsuits. You can peel a bunch ahead of time, and keep them in a damp paper towel to prevent Ramsay Bolton-ing yourself after a few drinks.) As for the cherry, either get good ones (like Luxardo brand), or don’t bother. Stick the cherry on a skewer so you can enjoy it; it does little good smashed under the ice.

There you go—it’s the perfect get-together drink for Dad, Grandma or your buddies. But when you see a bartender “making it wrong,” keep it to yourself; that’s between us.

Kevin Carlow is a bartender at Truss and Twine, and can be reached via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Cocktails

What: The ahi nachos

Where: Moxie Palm Springs, 262 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $15

Contact: 760-318-9900; www.moxiepalmsprings.com

Why: It’s a big plate of yumminess.

It was Saturday, and we’d had a late and rather massive lunch. When dinnertime came around, we weren’t all that hungry; we wanted drinks and small bites.

What better time to try out Moxie Palm Springs, on the second story above the Broken Yolk Café, overlooking downtown Palm Springs? I’d been hearing raves about the great cocktails, the fun vibe and the—as the Moxie website calls it—“creative cuisine served social style in the form of bar bites, shareable plates and salads.”

The Hive Minds were playing as we were seated at our table. There were seven in our party, and we got all sorts of things to sample and share. While everything we had was decent or better (especially the toasted brie bread, $12, which was endorsement-worthy itself), my selection became the star of the table: I picked the ahi nachos, and they were fantastic.

At first, I wondered whether the $15 price tag for a “shareable plate” was too high, but when the nachos arrived, I wondered no more: If anything, $15 is a bargain, given the quantity of delicious fish and other goodies on the large plate. As for those other goodies: The wonton chips were nice and lighter than, say, tortilla chips would have been; the amazu sauce added a nice bit of sweetness; the avocado offered up a pleasing soft texture and richness.

While my fellow diners sampled the nachos liberally, I ate the bulk of them, and I was definitely full afterward—and I have a hunch that would have been the case even if I hadn’t had a gargantuan lunch. 

Published in The Indy Endorsement

New in Downtown Palm Springs: Moxie Palm Springs

For several years, Grind Brgr Bar languished on the second floor at 262 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in downtown Palm Springs. I went to the Kaiser Restaurant Group-owned restaurant fairly frequently, because the burgers were good, and I loved the view. However, the place seemed constantly understaffed, and there was no vibe whatsoever.

Well, Grind is gone, as is its downstairs sister restaurant, The Chop House. In Grind’s place is Moxie Palm Springs—and it appears the charming second-story space (above what is now the Broken Yolk Café) is finally getting the treatment it deserves.

Don’t go to Moxie expecting a big, honking meal; instead, you’ll find salads, $4 bar bites (such as a single slider or a jicama shrimp taco) and “sharables” such as papas bravas ($8) and a charcuterie platter ($15). On the drink side, Moxie offers an innovative selection of “crafty cocktails” and “classy cocktails” for $11, and well drinks for $6—and you can knock a buck or two off those prices during happy hour, between 4 and 7 p.m.

Just as exciting as the food and drink, however, is the list of special events: A quick gander at Moxie’s Facebook page shows goings-on such as wine-tastings and live entertainment.

Moxie is open at 4 p.m. daily, and closes no later than midnight. For more information, call 760-318-9900, or visit www.facebook.com/moxiepalmsprings.


The Ace Looks to Taco Maria to Spice Up King's Highway Offerings

Forgive me if you’ve heard this before: The Ace Hotel and Swim Club, at 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, has enlisted the aid of a highly regarded out-of-town restaurant to improve the food offerings at the King’s Highway restaurant.

This time, the help is coming from Taco Maria, the Costa Mesa restaurant that’s earned chef Carlos Salgado many awards; in fact, our friends at the OC Weekly have named it the best Orange County restaurant three years in a row.

It was just two years ago that I was telling you that the Ace had brought in Brooklyn, N.Y., restaurant Five Leaves to shore up the King’s Highway menu. Some of those changes were great—the Five Leaves burger was tasty, while the buttermilk fried Jidori earned a coveted Indy Endorsement from the rag you’re reading right now.

Despite these bright points, however, I’ve never really enjoyed eating at King’s Highway all that much—even though I would definitely qualify as an Ace regular. What came out of the kitchen over the last couple of years was inconsistent, while some of the prices were simply outrageous: Chips and salsa will set you back $9 in the Amigo Room. If you want the add “crushed avocado,” your total tab is $15. Really?!

So far, the changes I’ve seen to the menu have been encouraging. I’ll be curious to see what Salgado ultimately does as part of this culinary partnership. (Here’s hoping more-reasonable prices are among the changes!)

Visit www.kingshighwaydiner.com for more information.


In Brief

If you 1) love great food, 2) love great beer, 3) love a gorgeous restaurant atmosphere and 4) are reading this column fairly early, take note: You’ll want to be at the Purple Palm Restaurant, at the Colony Palms Hotel at 572 N. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, on Wednesday, Jan. 25, for the Winter Food and Beer Fest. According to this here news release, Purple Palm executive chef Nick Tall “has created a festive dinner of shared plates, all expertly paired with beer” from Coachella Valley Brewing Co. The evening—which starts with a reception at 6 p.m. and is followed by a sit-down dinner—costs $70. Call 760-969-1818 for reservations or more information. … Breakfast is becoming big in down Palm Springs: We recently heard a rumor that a veeeeery popular Palm Desert-area breakfast/brunch joint may be soon moving into the second-story space that The Falls Steakhouse used to call home, at 155 S. Palm Canyon Drive. We have not confirmed the rumor, so we won’t share any further details, but keep your eyes open and your fingers crossed. … Frenchy’s Sports Bar and Grill is now open at 2155 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in north Palm Springs, in the space the late, lamented Dickie O’Neal’s used to call home. Live entertainment and karaoke are in the mix along with the food and sports. Call 760-424-8765, or visit www.facebook.com/FrenchysPalmSprings.

Published in Restaurant & Food News