New Orleans Cabs Upgraded With Soda Vending Machines

Between the comfort food and the free-spirited partying, New Orleans is certainly a city that knows how to make visitors feel at home. Now, its cabbies are encouraging travelers to kick back and relax with a refreshing drink via new in-vehicle vending machines.

For 99 cents, those traveling in a local taxi are able to purchase a can of soda on the spot. Using a seat-back media screen, passengers can choose from a range of drink options before swiping their card to make the payment. Within moments, a cold can of soda is ejected from the back of the passenger seat.Simon Garber, who owns the New Orleans Carriage Cab and Yellow-Checker Cab companies, came up with the vending machine concept after his son suggested the idea. It took him four years to fine-tune the drinks dispenser, which works by connecting to a fridge holding several dozen cans of soda.

So far, Garber has installed the drink machine in 40 New Orleans taxis, but he hopes to expand the service to other cities including Chicago and New York. Garber says one day, the technology could also be used to sell cologne, umbrellas and other travel necessities.

[via Harriet Baskas]

[Photo credit: Flickr user Sigmar]

Where To Get New York’s Best Hot Chocolate This Winter

hot chocolate While New York has many worthwhile offerings during the holidays – seeing the tree at Rockefeller Center, ice skating at Bryant Park, browsing the many holiday markets – the bitter cold of the city makes it important to know where to go for a hot beverage. Home to many cozy bars, restaurants and cafes, you’ll have numerous options, including R Lounge in the Renaissance New York Times Square Hotel.

Chilly travelers can take in 360-degree views of Times Square and beyond while sipping special hot chocolates relating to the month’s holiday and season, each served with a complimentary sweet. There will also be ongoing chef selection choices including Milk Hot Chocolate, Dark Hot Chocolate and White Hot Chocolate made with homemade marshmallows, fresh fruit, chocolate shavings and various other toppings. If you’re in the mood to get a bit tipsy, you can add Grand Marnier, Rum, Franjelico or Baileys to any cocoa.

In November, cinnamon churros are served with beverages like Pumpkin Spice Hot Chocolate, Mexican Spiced Hot Chocolate and Hot Apple Cider. If visiting in December, you’ll get a free piece of peppermint bark as well as Peppermint Hot Chocolate, Gingerbread Hot Chocolate or Mulled Wine. In January, seasonal flavors include Frozen Hot Chocolate, Peppermint Hot Chocolate and Mocha Hot Chocolate served with peppermint meringue and chocolate ganache. And in February, meringue cookies come with cocoas like Lavender Hot Chocolate, Strawberry White Hot Chocolate and Hot Chocolate With Coffee.

Hot chocolates are $8, or $18 when you add liquor.

[Image via R Lounge]

The 3 Best Spots For A Drink In Newport, Rhode Island

castle hill inn newport During summer, the city of Newport, Rhode Island, brings in millions of visitors who want to experience history, mansions, sailing, boutique shops, delicious restaurants and relaxing on the water. One facet of Newport worth exploring is the drink scene. To help you enjoy scenic views, historical cocktails and quality craft beer, here are three of the best spots for a drink in Newport.

Castle Hill Inn
590 Ocean Avenue

Located at the end of Ocean Drive, you’ll find a welcoming waterfront mansion with a rich history. While most people know of Castle Hill Inn as a luxurious hotel, many don’t realize it’s also Newport’s most scenic drinks spot. Once you have your car valeted, you can make your way to the hotel’s spacious backyard, which features a patio, bar and an award-winning restaurant, as well as a lawn littered with Adirondack chairs. While the drinks are a bit pricey – about $12 for a cocktail, $10 to $35 for a glass of wine and $5.50 to $14 for a beer – you won’t be spending much more than you would anywhere else in Newport, and you’ll have a great view. Relax with a cold drink while watching sail boats passing by, children giggling and playing tag and calming waves on the waterfront. If you’re hungry, you can order from the “lawn menu,” which has dishes like “Surf ‘N’ Turf Burger” ($24), “Native Fish Wrap” with chickpea salad ($16) and artisanal cheeses with jams, almonds, honey and grilled bread ($19).white horse tavern White Horse Tavern
26 Marlborough

While this dimly lit bar may appear unassuming, it’s actually said to be the oldest tavern in America. White Horse Tavern was originally constructed in 1652 as a two-story residence. In 1673 when it was acquired by a new owner it was converted to a tavern. For the next 100 years, before the Colony House came about, it was a meeting place for the Colony’s General Assembly, Criminal Court and City Council. With its clapboard walls, plain pediment doors and gambrel roof on the outside, and wide fireplaces, giant beams and tiny front hall on the inside it’s said no building in the town better resembles colonial Newport. The staff is extremely friendly, and will be happy to show you their international wine or quality bourbon lists. Additionally, this is one of the only places in Newport you can order a Long Trail IPA, a much-loved beer with a golden color, small white head, flowery nose and herbal notes.

pour judgement Pour Judgement Bar & Grill
32 Broadway

Beer nerds will love this brew-focused venue, which features one of the widest selection of craft beers in the city. Unlike many drink spots in Newport, Pour Judgement Bar & Grill is reasonably priced, with $2.50 Narragansetts, $4 Newport Storm Winter Ports and $4 Peak Organic Nut Brown Ales, as well as other local, domestic and international beers. Not only will you get to sip quality brews without breaking the bank, you’ll also be getting to experience local life, as this is a popular hangout for Newport residents. Moreover, staff are friendly and are more than happy to help you choose the perfect beer to pair with your burger, turkey chili or seafood curry.

Quirky Cocktails In Mexico: Mango Distilled Spirits

onilikan While Mexico is renowned for its tequilas and mescals, if you’re heading to Mazatlán there is another type of drink you should try: mango distilled spirits. Onilikan, which translates to “the place of liquor,” is a distillery putting their fruit to good use. In fact, they are the first people in Mexico and one of the only in the world fermenting mango to create delectable spirits.

The drink is a combination of local Mexico and foreign European influences. While the fruits are grown in Mazatlán, Onilikan adapts the European liqueur production traditions to extract the mango essence and craft a premium-quality, smooth sipping mango beverage.

So, what’s so special about the mango-infused libation? While distillers have used mango before, it hasn’t been in this manner.

“There are other people processing mango and creating mango wine, or adding mango into rum, tequila, and so on, but not the way we do it,” says Onilikan Sales Director Maria Victoria Campos.

They use a distiller called “Dora the Distiladora.” This is a German-made “pot still” designed to maximize and capture the fruit aromas. It features a heating/evaporation component, which heats the fermented fruit and juice; an aroma collection column, which uses bronze plates to trap the scents from the alcohol; and a condenser, which cools down the gases and turns them back into liquids. While the model is still widely used in Europe to distil alcohol from a variety of fruits, it is the first of its kind to operate in Mexico.

You can get the spirit in two different strengths. The milder one, a sweet sipping liquor, has an alcohol content of 24%, while the other is referred to as Aqua Caliente – fire water – due to an alcohol content of 40%. Along with being used as for cocktails, the mango liqueurs can be used for cooking and making a delicious marinade for fish or chicken.

A Guide To Drinking Tequila In Mexico

tequila While tequila is typically thought of as something you took too many shots of during a crazy night out, the drink actually has a deep cultural meaning, rich history and a proper way to be sipped. To help you get better acquainted with the libation, here is a guide to drinking tequila in Mexico.

History

Originating in the northwestern state of Jalisco, tequila is North America’s first distilled and commercially produced alcohol. It is distilled from the blue agave plant, which produces sugar and is native to Jalisco. Tequila’s roots reach back into pre-Hispanic times when the Aztecs fermented sap from the local agave plants, long before the Spanish arrived in 1521. Then, when the brandy the Spaniards had brought with them ran out, they began to distill the agave plant to make tequila.

By law, tequila can only be called “tequila” if it is made in Jalisco. The first qualifications for the drink were written in 1947, and have been constantly updated ever since. If you’re looking for top-shelf tequila, make sure it’s made with 100% blue agave.How It’s Made

According to tequila distillers Daniel Osuna and Alfonso Pelayo Osuna, there is a very specific process for making tequila. First, the agave is cultivated for seven to eight years, before the spines are cut off and the piñas are transported to the distillery. Once this is done, there are four steps in the production process.

1. The piñas are roasted in the oven. This is to change the starch into fermentable sugars and to soften the piñas’ texture to be able to extract their juice.

2. Now comes the sugar extraction, where the largest amount of sugar within the agave is extracted.

3. Fermenting is the most important stage in the process for obtaining the desired characteristics of the tequila. The sugar is isolated to allow it to change to alcohol and for the pleasant aromas to appear.

4. Finally, the product is distilled. This is when the tequila is refined for perfect flavor and aroma in oak barrels. The alcohol absorbs the oak, allowing the tequila to have perfect body, softness and texture.

blue agave Classifications

There are two basic classifications of tequila, “100% blue agave” and “tequila mixto” (mixed). Mixed tequila contains at least 51% blue agave, with the rest typically coming from cane sugar. Other ingredients you may find in this type of tequila include caramel color, oak extract flavoring, glycerin, and sugar based syrup. This type does not need to be made in Jalisco. The other classification, 100% blue agave, will read “Tequila 100% de agave” or “Tequila 100% puro de agave” on the bottle. If it simply says “tequila,” it’s probably mixed.

From the two classifications there are five sub-classifications:

  • Tequila Silver – Blanco – Plata – White – Platinum: This type of tequila is in its purest form. It usually isn’t aged, with the true flavors, intensity and sweetness being present.
  • Tequila Gold – Joven – Oro: This type of tequila is usually mixed, with added colors and flavors. Most times, this type of tequila is inexpensive and used for mixed drinks in bars; however, there are exceptions to this, like when silver tequila is mixed with a reposado and/or añejo tequila. By doing this, you’re still keeping the product 100% blue agave.
  • Tequila Reposado: Known as an “aged” or “rested” tequila, the drink is aged in wood barrels or storage tanks from anywhere between 2 to 11 months. It’s usually gold in color and has flavors of agave and wood. Sometimes, the tequila will be aged in a barrel that once contained a different spirit like whiskey or wine, giving it some of those tastes, as well.
  • Tequila Añejo: This “extra aged” tequila is aged for at least one year. The liquid usually takes on an amber color that is more smooth, dark and complex than the other sub-classifications.
  • Tequila Extra Añejo: Known as “ultra aged,” this tequila is aged for three years or more. The extended aging gives it a very dark color, and the flavor is often hard to distinguish between other high-quality aged spirits. After the aging process, distilled water is added to dilute the tequila.

The Difference Between Tequila and Mescal

Today, majority of mezcal is made in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Unlike tequila, there are five varieties of agave mezcal can be distilled from. Additionally, while tequila is double and sometimes triple distilled, mezcal is usually only distilled once to give it a stronger taste. Currently, more than 500 different brands of tequila are on the market, while mezcal boasts only 100.

To make mezcal, the sugar-rich core of the agave plant called the piña, is baked in a rock-lined pit oven over charcoal. It is covered with layers of palm-fiber mats and dirt, giving the drink a strong, smoky flavor. Locals in Oaxaca drink mezcal to calm their minds and lift their spirits, as well as stimulate their creativity. Moreover, the libation is made by hundreds of small family businesses called “palenques,” which preserve traditional methods of mezcal production.

barrels How To Sip Tequila

Typically, tequila is sipped slowly and enjoyed without salt and fruit. People began doing shots in this fashion because, in the past, the liquor was so strong drinkers needed to take the salt and lemon or lime to make it smoother. Specifically, tequila used to be made with 55 to 60º of alcohol, while today it is made with 38 to 40º, or 80 proof. To properly enjoy tequila, you should follow these steps:

  • Purchase the bottle of your preference
  • Pour a small portion into a globe glass, which keeps the aromas inside for you to enjoy
  • Swirl the drink around like you would a fine wine
  • Smell the tequila with your left nostril, then with your right nostril, to discover hidden scents
  • Tap a small sip and swirl it around your mouth, swallow and take a deep breath. You’ll hopefully be able to taste some flavors of wood and melchonte, or cooked agave.
  • Drink slowly and enjoy how the flavors and aromas interact with your senses

Distillery Tours

The Tequila Express (or Tequila Train) is a Mexican regional train service that operates from Guadalajara, Jalisco, to the municipality of Amatitán, Jalisco. Why is it called the Tequila Express? Because passengers will be given tequila tastings, ride through blue agave fields and end at the Tequila Herradura distillery at the San José del Refugio Hacienda. Prices are $850 M.N. (about $65 USD) for adults, and $480 M.N. (about $37) for children 12 and under. Children under 5 ride free. You can purchase tickets on Ticketmaster’s Mexico website or call 333-818-3802.

[Images via Photomag, Mexico Tourism Board, Mexico Tourism Board]