Photo of the Day: Smoked Turkish cheese

It used to be a common expression to say that someone “smoked like a Turk,” and I can confirm after living in Istanbul for nearly two years, Turks still love their smoking. Even after the indoor smoking ban of 2009, cigarettes and nargile (water pipes) are very common here. This portrait by Flickr user MichaelAV captures two of the Turks’ other loves: çay (see the tiny tea glass on the left) and cheese. So beloved is Turkish cheese that I’ve heard of Turks packing their suitcases full of it when traveling abroad. Be sure to try some with your Turkish breakfast or along with a glass of rakı at cocktail hour if you visit Turkey.

Take any portraits of locals with their favorite things? Add them to the Gadling Flickr pool and you may see it as a future Photo of the Day.

Photo of the day – Cocktail hour

It’s always cocktail hour somewhere in the world, they say, though if you’re 8 months pregnant like me, it’s not for another 5 weeks or so. Even as a non-whiskey drinker, I looked at this and wanted a nice warming glass of scotch and perhaps a fire to drink it by. Flickr user JRodmanJr snapped this drink (and presumably drank it) in Basel, Switzerland; it’s a 14-year-old single malt from the Scottish distillery Oban. A beverage like this one can inspire a trip to taste the drink at its source, or just provide a mini-vacation in a glass.

Photograph any refreshing beverages on your travels? Upload your pix to the Gadling Flickr page and we may use it for a future Photo of the Day.

Tarantula cocktail at the Langham London – yes, an actual tarantula

It’s a Scorpion & Oven Baked Tarantula Tea Punch, to be exact. Happy Halloween, right?

Actually, it has nothing to do with Halloween. This unprecedentedly creepy cocktail is the result of the Courvoisier Spirit of Punch Masters competition this year, and was created by the Langham Hotel‘s very own Francesco Orefici and Alex Kratena. They decided to infuse the cognac with a real tarantula and scorpion. They won.

From their creepy recipe:

“Tarantula is baked in primitive fire heated oven. It is traditional and delicious snack, which if infused in spirits gives nice smoky, woody and tobacco notes. Scorpion, according to old legends, is known for healing properties as well as stimulating ones libido.”

This is starting to sound pretty good. They combine 50mL of the VSOP cognac infused with tarantula and scorpion with …

  • 25ml Poire William eaux de vie
  • 25ml Velvet Falernum
  • 25ml Freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters
  • 1 dash Regans Orange bitters no.6
  • 50ml Sencha tea
  • 3 pcs allspice
  • 3 tbspoon Mandarin peel infused sugar

… and serve it to you like it’s totally normal. Who knew tarantulas and scorpions created tobacco notes? What are these creepy-crawlies up to on their breaks?

[Photo by mikebaird via Flickr.]

United Airlines flight attendants create new cocktails – passengers pick the best

Last week, United airlines held an event for their most important passengers, and presented them with ten different cocktails, all designed by flight attendants. In total, United crew members submitted 64 different cocktails, and the top ten entries ended up on a table at Trader Vic’s in Chicago.

The ten finalists:

  1. Sunset-Sunrise : Finlandia Vodka, cranberry apple cocktail, splash of orange juice, lime wedge
  2. Sky High Delight : Finlandia Vodka, orange juice, cranberry apple cocktail, sprite, lime wedge
  3. Friendly Skies Spritzer : Finlandia Vodka, ginger ale, orange juice, cranberry apple cocktail, seltzer, lime wedge
  4. Cloud 9 Cosmo : Finlandia Vodka, Sprite, cranberry apple cocktail, lime wedge
  5. Jack and the Bean Stock : Jack Daniels, Ginger Ale
  6. My Style High : Courvoisier VSOP Cognac, orange juice, cranberry apple cocktail, sprite
  7. Bon Voyage! : Bacardi Rum, orange juice, cranberry apple cocktail
  8. Flirty Smile : Finlandia Vodka, cranberry apple cocktail, ginger ale, lime wedge
  9. Island Dream : Bacardi Rum, cranberry apple cocktail, ginger ale, lime wedge
  10. Gin Buck : Tanqueray Gin, ginger ale, lime wedge

The event was very casual and was attended by several members of the United Airlines management in charge of the in-flight service. As for the drinks, I actually managed to try all ten of them, and found it very hard to pick a favorite. The lime wedge was a very nice touch, and made for delightful drinks.

The winning cocktail will end up on all United Airlines flights with full beverage service towards the end of the year. In addition to drinks, United also served some of the newest food choices from their coast to coast P.S. service.

The winning drink as picked by members of and the United Fliers Community is drink number 1 – Sunset Sunrise. If you’d like to make one of these for yourself, here are the instructions:

  • Pour 25 ml Finlandia vodka over ice
  • Fill glass with Minute Maid Cranberry Apple Cocktail
  • Add a splash of Orange Juice
  • Finish with a Lime wedge

Sunset-Sunrise was created by LAX based flight attendant Tita Martin. Events like this show a new thinking within United Airlines, and I have to say that I’m quite impressed by the time and effort put into listening to their customers. Granted, the event was not really open to everyone, but an airline that is open to ideas from its customers is one that deserves a pat on the back, especially if it involves serving free cocktails.

19 perfect dive bars

We need dive bars more than we care to admit. They are the counterweight to a world overflowing with upscale lounges and designer “mixologist” cocktails, a way to keep it simple, hang out with friends old and new and tip back our favorite beverage. Gadling is a big fan of dive bars too. That’s why we’ve put together this list of 19 of our favorites. Where’s your favorite dive bar? Leave us a tip in the comments.

Crystal Cafe – Raton, New Mexico
The most remarkable thing about Crystal Cafe is the light up dance floor. That and the decor make you feel like you’ve traveled back in time, and that a disco maniac in a polyester suit will walk through the door at any moment. The bar is entirely retro, but not because they’re trying — the owners just haven’t changed anything since when the small town its located in was more happening.

Norma’s (a.k.a. the Domino Club) – St. Croix, USVI
is famous for two reasons: beer drinking pigs and a local brew called Mama Wanna. Animal rights concerns resulted in the pigs getting switched to non-alcoholic beer, but the patrons aren’t so restricted. Mama Wanna is some kind of wonderful spiced rum drink, and the local proprietress of this island hut tucked away in the jungle hasn’t even been tempted to sell the recipe yet. It packs quite a kick, so the locals use Elephant beer as a chaser.

Madam’s Organ Blues Bar – Washington, DC

With a slogan like, “Where the beautiful people go to get ugly,” how could you not love Madam’s Organ Blues Bar? Despite the popularity this bar enjoys, they haven’t managed to clean it up too much. There’s live music most nights, and more old couches upstairs than a used furniture store. After the bar closes, the local tradition is to grab a giant slice of pizza from one of the nearby all-night sliceries.Salty Dawg Saloon – Homer, Alaska
The buoys strung up on the outside of Salty Dawg Saloon, found inside a plain log and thatch cabin, hardly scream party time, but the partiers on the inside sure as heck do. The walls have thousands of dollar bills stapled to them, each one uniquely decorated by the patron who posted it. In true Alaska dive style, the floors are covered in sawdust. If you’re feeling frisky, you could even order a Salty Dog. The bar isn’t named for the drink, but they do serve them.

Neptune’s Net – Malibu, California
Despite this bar’s location in upscale Malibu, Neptune’s Net is a bit of a dive. You’ve got to fight (sometimes literally) for a table, it’s crowded with bikers, and the restrooms are of the portable variety. But it’s got some amazing fried seafood and beers a plenty. Plus, the outside tables have gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean.

Crossroads Bar & Grill – South Royalton, Vermont
It’s dark, it’s dank, and it’s darling. Crossroads is the perfect dive bar where you could wile away a night, or an entire winter, given the local weather patterns. Set in the small and idyllic town of South Royalton, this bar is a meeting place for long time locals and cerebral students from the nearby Vermont Law School. There’s even a collection of offensive bumper stickers posted behind the bar, if you forget your reading material.

Gentleman Jim’s – Gaithersburg, Maryland
It’s not often you get a dive bar with two floors of drinking, but they’ve managed to make it happen in this industrial complex tavern. Upstairs is a small, windowless bar with a bit of a Cheers feel, since the variety of the patrons tends to be limited. Downstairs is the restaurant area with a service bar open to the public. What makes this place worth mentioning is the pizza — square, with sweet tomato sauce and a swiss cheese blend. Try it on a Monday or Tuesday for half price, and the happy hours are competitive as well.

The Alley Cantina – Taos, New Mexico
If it weren’t for the local crowd, a ratty old games collection, and $2.50 margaritas every day from 5 to 7, the Alley Cantina might not have even qualified as a dive. But thanks to the shuffleboard, crooked pool table, and some old french game where you’ve got to flick checkers around with your thumb, this is the perfect place to hang out and have a beer, or five. They’ve even got food, if you’re into fried.

The Broken Spoke – Austin, Texas

The Broken Spoke has become legendary, perhaps regrettably to its loyal local clientele. It’s claim to fame is its long affair with country music, with legends like Willie Nelson having made regular appearances through the years. It’s got a country dance hall vibe, and they even offer blue plate special lunches to stick with the theme. Not a bad place to have a couple beers and get rowdy.

Norton Rats – Cusco, Peru
You might not guess that you could find a biker bar in a South American town at an elevation of 11,000 feet but, lo and behold, you can. There is simply no explanation for Norton Rats other than divine providence. They offer a wide selection of beer, and a view of the main plaza in Cusco from the narrow balconies. Flags from a hundred countries are nailed to the ceiling, giving you something to look at when your drinks get to you early due to the altitude. Even if the place has a bit of a divey vibe, its a welcome respite for travelers who have made it this far into the wild.

— The above was written by Writing Kimberly, Seed contributor.

Malachy’s – New York, New York
Malachy’s might be the most miserable place on Earth. Horrendous lighting, depressed staff, despondent clientele and a perfect Guinness every time. The fat, juicy 1/2 lb. burger is real good too. Somehow, the cook has been spared.

Nolan’s – Long Beach, New York
A free standing shack made of old cedar, Nolan’s looks like even the faintest ocean breeze will knock it over. Trashed motocycles and cars litter the adjacent lot. Every lifer in the place is crusty and pissed off. Coldest bottle of Bud ever served. Step out into the sun, across the street and stumble to the beach.

The Goat Hill Tavern – Costa Mesa, California
The Goat Hill Tavern, an out-of-the-way hole in Los Angeles Southern California, might be the region’s greatest anti-attraction. Hundreds of tap beers, cramped quarters, stale smoke and that God awful dive bar smell. Top it all off with the wannabe screenwriter next to you stirring his vodka with his finger while plotting his next “murder the movie exec” thriller at one in the afternoon. Lights, Camera, Misery!

PJ’s Pub – Baltimore, Maryland
Is PJ’s Pub the best daytime watering hole in history? Homemade Bloody Mary’s and baskets spicy Old Bay dusted steamed shrimp at noon chase away any hangover. Hours pass effortlessly until the Johns Hopkins engineering geeks and Lacrosse studs start to file in for their nightly revelry. Guys, if you’re lucky, maybe a girl will even show up.

Mission Hill Saloon – San Francisco, California
Mission Hill is the “Cheers” of dive bars. Dark, dingy and depressingly plain – but the misery stops there. Ice, ice cold beers served by good people. Excellent jukebox and locals that have no problem making you feel like a local.

The Cat’s Eye Pub – Baltimore, Maryland
Ah, the Cat’s Eye Pub. You can’t move, you can’t breathe. Old salts stare you down and threaten with daggers. Old cougars troll for new meat. Killer blues bands play way too loud, right in your ear. The lost leg of a dead sea captain hangs above the men’s urinal. Fun!

The Bronx Bar – Detroit, Michigan
The Bronx Bar is in the “happening” part of town, whatever that means. Great tunes, cold beers. Ultimately, it just looks real cool and divey from the outside. Pure American depression. Rejoice!

Catacombs Bar – Boulder, Colorado

Catacombs Bar is huge hole in the ground – literally. On a weeknight, it feels like “Land of the Lost.” Spacious and desolate, an alcoholic paleontologist’s dream. Tunes echo from the juke, drinks are served by pretentious, cruncher wannabes who are too cool for school. “Is there anybody out there?”

McSorley’s – New York, New York
Step down off street level and into history at McSorley’s. The oldest operating saloon in New York. Dingy, quiet – reverent even. Don’t go for the music, the TV, the pool table. Go there to drink, lament and repent. That’s what you do in a dive bar.

— The above was written by Drew Moss, Seed contributor.

* The 24 greatest cities in the world for drinking beer
* 15 more great cities for drinking beer
* The 20 greatest cities in the world for foodies
* The 25 greatest cities in the world for drinking wine