Heavenly Light

Heavenly Light
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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What is St. Patrick's Day to you?

Blog post published USBG Pulse March 17, 2015 

By: Trent Simpson

Possibly one of the most prominent “drinking holidays,”St. Patrick’s Day was historically noted for paying homage to St. Patrick by lifting the Christian Lenton, or Lent, restrictions on eating and drinking for the day, which propagated the popularity of drinking on March 17th.

As a bartender, what does St. Patrick’s Day mean to you? Do you look at St. Patrick’s Day as an event that can make or break the month of March? Do you pull a 20-hour shift and rake in two months rent working at an Irish pub? Maybe you take the night off to indulge in the revelry and shenanigans of the holiday, or you work at a fine dining establishment and cherish in the slow nature of the night concocting a special with some new promising Irish whiskeys or Guinness inspired cocktails?

In San Francisco, we were fortunate to have Ireland native Andrew Sweeney, who is immersed in the traditions of Irish culture, especially whiskey production, take us through his extensive and delicious line of Irish whiskeys. It was not only educational but also eye opening—from the smooth Kilbeggan to the fruity Greenore and peaty Connemara. After many decades of being rendered obsolete,  Irish whiskey has made a re-emergence, with the fastest growth of any whiskey category, including scotch and bourbon. The Irish whiskey market is booming, with many distilleries opening up even as we speak. From single malts to single grains, peated drams and specialty finishes, these delightful whiskeys are already available to the US consumer or coming very soon. 

Perhaps it’s time to rethink your Irish traditions and expand your horizons beyond the traditional Jameson and Guinness. In any case, whichever your tipple may be, and wherever you end up, indulge responsibly and encourage your guests to appreciate the finer things in life as they pay homage to their revered St. Patrick.

Special thanks to Mr. Andrew Sweeney for providing the photographs, USBG SF, Jennifer Sobb and Beam Suntory. 

Trent Simpson
Treasurer, Northern California USBG
Bar Manager, La Urbana


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Battle of Tequileros 2015: El Vampiro by Trent Simpson from La Urbana for the Win!!!

It was a long ride from conception to competition, but in the end perseverance, determination and an innovative twist on a classic tequila cocktail, El Vampiro, wins the 2015 Battle of Tequileros

Serving as a fundraiser for the USBG National Charity Foundation the annual competition was sponsored by Don Julio Tequila and was held at the lovely event space at Tres in San Francisco.

Below, I've chronicled some highlights from my entry/submission, pictures from the competition and recipes for how to make your very own Vampiro cocktail at home!

El Vampiro

2 oz Don Julio Blanco
.75 Fresh Lemon Juice
.75 Purely Syrup: Ginger Root
3 Dashes Bitter Truth Celery Bitters
1 oz Jugo de Vampiro* (layered on top)


Combine Don Julio, Lemon Juice, and Ginger Syrup in a cocktail shaker.

 Add ice and shake.  


Add three dashes of Celery Bitters to glass over ice.  Strain cocktail into glass.

 With separate mini carafe add Jugo de Vampiro.  Add celery swirl garnish and straw. 

Present to judges.

*Recipe and Ingredients for Jugo de Vampiro


All ingredients can be found at the CUESA Ferry Building Farmers Market in Saturday or foraged in the vicinity of San Francisco. For complete list of farms, see below.

2 Purple Baby Beets (peeled)
1 Large Gold Beet (peeled)
3 Celery Stalks
2 Carrots
5 Sprigs of Mint
8 oz of Ginger
15 Blackberries
1 Pink Grapefruit (peeled)
2 Meyer Lemons (peeled)
1 Valencia Orange (peeled)
1 Yuzu (for zest), or Bergamot Orange
6 oz Marshall Farm Bay Area Blend Honey
6 oz Water
1 oz Don Julio Añjeo
1 oz Smoky Mezcal


Juice all fruit (preferably with a Breville) and produce except for yuzu, fine strain. Take a saucepan and add juice over medium to low heat. In a separate container combine honey, zest of and yuzu and hot water, stir together and slowly add to pan with juice. Keep heat low, be sure not to boil, stir frequently. Continue stirring over low heat and remove any foam that rises to the top, taste for sweetness, if necessary add more honey. Remove from heat and let cool. Add Don Julio Añjeo and Mezcal to fortify, whisk vigorously. Place in mason jar or container for use in cocktail, makes about 8-10 servings and lasts up to 3-4 days.

Cocktail Inspiration/Local ingredients & inspiration:  

El Vampiro draws from many facets and walks of life, first from my love for Agave spirits, second from my passion for making cocktails and dedication to community events and education through the USBG, and thirdly, the abundance of local resources we have at our fingertips living in San Francisco. 

My cocktail is a play on the classic tequila cocktail, El Diablo, with my Jugo de Vampiro NorCal cordial as the perfect compliment to Don Julio. This initial inspiration allowed me to put my love and passion for the craft into this cocktail--especially being able to utilize spirits of such quality like Don Julio that provide a wonderful foundation to build a cocktail. In order to accentuate both the sweet and peppery notes of Don Julio Reposado, I was inspired by a traditional Mexican Beverage called "Jugo de Vampiro" to launch my ideas into action. The inspiration for the name comes from a Lucha Libre fighter, Vampiro Metálico which seemed fitting in conjunction with the ingredients in the cocktail. I was able to elevate a basic recipe to feature some of the amazing produce and citrus we have at our grasp here in Northern California--I harvested local meyer lemons, blackberries and rosemary from a friend's backyard and urban hikes through parks in SF. Its nice to be able to utilize nature to inspire what we do for a living.

I was also inspired by the Don Julio Farm to Shaker trip where we went together with the Don Julio team and USBG to Marshall's Honey Farm. I enjoyed the trip so much that have incorporated their Bay Area Blend as the sweetener. 

Lastly, I am constantly inspired by the incredible CUESA Ferry Building farmers market for its variety of colorful fruits and vegetables and friendly farmers. I was delighted to find all the ingredients such as local beets, celery, carrots and yuzu and inspired by the offerings to add more flavor and a personal spin to the recipe. We also have a plethora of incredible local products sometimes at your back door.  I am excited and honored to use my friend and co-workers' organic syrup company Purely Syrup Ginger Root in the cocktail.

This competition is a great way to realize how fortunate we are, tie in educational activities such as the Farm to Shaker USBG event, and accentuate our love and passion for the craft. With so much abundance around us, how can one not be inspired? 

Special giant thank you to Don Julio, Tres, Aeromexico and Luis Navarro for putting on an amazing event. A giant thanks, congrats and props to all the fellow Tequileros who did an amazing job as well--the competition was fierce and I look forward to drinking some agave with all of you soon! Also, huge thanks to the judges David NepoveMarcovaldo Dionysos and Ronaldo Colli, thanks for understanding my vision. Much love to Tony Devencenzi and Reza Esmaili for being amazing hosts. The Vampiro is on the menu at La Urbana so come by and get your own!

I also won two free tickets anywhere in Mexico, so I'll be taking suggestions on where to go...Tulum, Oaxaca, Manzanillo, Sayarita?!  

¡Salud, y nos vemos en México!

Written by Trent H. Simpson
Photos by Molly Decoudreaux