Alacrán Tequila helps fight breast cancer

Alacrán Tequila Limited Edition Pink Bottle
Alacrán Tequila Limited Edition Pink Bottle

Just because October has ended doesn’t mean the fight against breast cancer has. At least not for Alacrán Tequila. To help fuel the fight, proceeds from the Alacrán Tequila Limited Edition Pink Bottle, on sale to December, are donated to various breast cancer charities.

Although founded in Mexico City in 2010 and launched in the United States in 2011, Alacrán wasted no time lending its resources to the battle. As early as 2012, the Alacrán Tequila Limited Edition Pink Bottle was available for purchase. In subsequent years, Alacrán, the distinguished pure blue agave white tequila, has continued to do its part and 2015 is no different.

For those living in New York City, Miami and Texas, it’s easy to pick up Alacrán. For all others, online sites like Wine O Mart  are the best bet. And do note that pink isn’t the only way to go. After drinking in the name of a good cause, feel free to pick up Alacrán Cristal, the latest, greatest addition to the tequila brand.

Alacrán Cristal Tequila
Alacrán Cristal Tequila

Alacrán Cristal gets its distinctive flavor from agaves ranging from 7-10 years old harvested in the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico that are then matured for 14 months in American oak barrels used for bourbon that enhance its woody flavor. On top of that, Alacrán Cristal has an exclusive clarifying filtration process that ensures a smooth taste every time.

Whether pink or clear, there’s nothing rough about this tequila! – ronda racha penrice

Alacrán Limited Edition Pink Bottle typically retails from $42.99 to $49.99 and Alacrán Cristal from $49.99 to $59.00


2016 Kia Sorento: The New MVP?

2016 Kia Sorento
2016 Kia Sorento

There’s no arguing that the NBA is great at getting behind new talent. Back in 2009 when it drafted Kia, there were skeptics. But Kia has proven up to the challenge. That’s very evident in the 2016 Sorento.

This crowd-pleasing Sorento has been elongated and the result is a sleeker and more sophisticated vibe. The exterior is harmoniously balanced, with nothing appearing to be out of place. Inside is a joy too. First of all it’s gorgeous. There are not enough words to praise the panoramic sunroof which allows the sun to gloriously do its thing, but there is a power sunshade for those who like to hide from it. And the premium Nappa leather is a nice touch. But it’s an SUV so the fact that it’s so spacious that it even has a folding third row seat is perhaps most noteworthy.  Of course those heated first and second rows are lovely too.

It’s impressive under the hood as well with several engine options, including the 3.3. Liter, V6 which clocks up to 290 hp, at the highest trim level. Thanks to Dynamax All-Wheel Drive, optimum performance is assured, plus the Torque Vectoring Cornering Control ensures more precise turning.

Safety is foremost: ample airbags, an advanced sensor system, lane departure warning, blind-spot detection and front and rear parking assist. The Sorento’s UVO system’s advanced voice-recognition technology allows you to be completely hands-free and make calls using only your voice.

Toccoa Falls
Toccoa Falls

There’s no substitute for putting a SUV on the road to see what it’s made of. Granted Toccoa Falls, the beautifully calming waterfall that is believed to be the highest single drop waterfall east of the Mississippi located at Toccoa Falls College, is just roughly an hour and a half away from Atlanta, outside the city, the Sorento still got a chance to flex what it does. Cruise control works well and smoothly. Navigation gets the job done even when some areas are questionably barren. It effortlessly navigated the Sorento over to the more well-known Tallulah Gorge which is nearby. Those who’ve witnessed the isolation of the area know how impressive that is!

2016 Kia Sorento at Tallulah Gorge
2016 Kia Sorento at Tallulah Gorge

Overall, the ride was very comfortable. According to Kia, gas mileage hits around 18 in the city and 26 on the highway and, judging by this drive, that’s pretty accurate.

The Sorento’s starting price of $41, 300 for the Limited V6 definitely gives its competitors—the Toyota Highlander, Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo, Ford Edge—reason to worry. Clearly Kia is going for MVP status. -ronda racha penrice


Get to know QUI: The "Clear" Tequila winner

QUI Tequila Box
QUI Tequila

Tequila, proclaims Esquire, is the new scotch. This, of course, is in recognition of how tequila has stepped up its game in recent years. And QUI Tequila is certainly a manifestation of that. Tagged as “the world’s first platinum extra-añejo tequila,” QUI Platinum Extra Añejo Tequila arrives in a sophisticated black box that holds an eye-catching crystal decanter style bottle for those choosing to indulge at home. But its taste, not packaging, gets the highest marks.

QUI’s pioneering filtration processing uses the blue weber agave plant that has been aged for nine years and comes from the slopes of Atotonilco El Alto – the tallest peak in the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico. After that the resulting liquid rests in French Bordeaux and American whiskey barrels for three and a half years, before being filtered nine times it's distilled for a third time.

The result is a clear, full-bodied and extra-aged spirit that has a pleasing faint vanilla aroma further enhanced by hints of honey, butterscotch and toasted oak. It’s an award winner too. QUI won the Gold Medal at the 2013 Spirits of the Americas Competition.

Currently QUI can be found in bars and restaurants in New York, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas and Houston, with more coming. In the meantime, it can be ordered online and consumed neat or in any of these suggested cocktails from some of Austin's best spirit professionals. - ronda racha penrice

QUI Platinum Extra Añejo typically retails for just over $50.

 

Austin Mule
Created by Mark Yawn (Ranch 616 Bar Manager)

QUI Cocktails Austin Mule

1 ½ parts QUI Tequila
½ part lime juice
2 dashes bitters
Fresh muddled ginger
Dash of Chili Salt
Ginger beer
Ginger peel (garnish)

Rim a copper mug with chili salt and set aside. Muddle ginger in a cocktail shaker; add tequila, lime juice, bitters and ice and shake. Strain and pour ingredients into the copper mug over a large ice cube and top with ginger beer. Garnish with ginger peel if desired.

QUInky
Created by Dustin Courtright (W Austin Libationist)

QUI Cocktails QUInky Cocktail

1 ½ parts QUI Tequila
½ part lime juice
¾ part pineapple juice
¾ part lemongrass syrup
4 muddled serrano slices

Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into a coupe glass with one slice serrano garnish.

Tran-QUI-lo
Created by Carley Dunavant (JW Marriott Austin Lead Bartender)

QUI Cocktails Tran-QUI-lo

1 ½ parts QUI Tequila
¼ part good Mezcal for rinse
1 part Fresh Watermelon Juice
½ part Bell Pepper Syrup
½ part Fresh Lime Juice
Pinch of Maldon Salt

In shaker combine Qui, watermelon juice, bell pepper syrup, lime juice and salt, add ice and stir. Rinse rocks glass with Mezcal. Strain into rocks glass with fresh ice.


Try Wicked Dolphin Coconut Rum for National Rum Day

Wicked Dolphin Coconut Rum Image 2

Why shouldn’t rum be celebrated? So there was little resistance from me when I was asked to try Wicked Dolphin Rum. Because I have a thing for this kind of coco at least, I decided to try coconut. And I was not disappointed. It’s very rare to get a rum you can literally sip straight, nothing else required.

Serial entrepreneur JoAnn Elardo knows how to identify opportunity though. When she tasted a bad cocktail in her adopted state of Florida, where sugarcane, the main ingredient for good rum, is plentiful, it didn’t take her long to realize that a Florida-based rum in her resident Cape Coral was the answer. Since their founding just three years ago, Wicked Dolphin has made a splash. One of Florida’s top craft distilled rums, Wicked Dolphin, so named for the many naughty dolphins near Elardo’s home, scored gold at the 2013 Miami Rum Festival and has even won some American Distiller Awards.

Although I’ve found that I prefer to drink the coconut rum straight up, these recipes are also easy and tasty. Enjoy responsibly! –ronda racha penrice

The Red Tide

2 oz. Wicked Dolphin Coconut Rum
Cranberry Juice
Pour rum in ice-filled glass. Top with cranberry juice. Stir.

Wicked Floridian

Wicked Dolphin Coconut Rum
Pineapple Juice
Orange Juice

Pour rum in ice-filled glass, followed by pineapple and orange juice. Stir.

Wicked Rum & Coke

Wicked Dolphin Coconut Rum
Coca-Cola
Lime Wedge

Pour rum in ice-filled glass, followed by Coca-Cola. Garnish with lime.


Picture Me Rollin: The 2015 CLS400 4-Door Coupe

2015 CLS400 Coupe
2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS400 Coupe

Okay, so the 2015 CLS400 4-door Coupe in Cardinal Red with the show-stopping diamond-block Benz emblem grille, flashy full-LED headlamps, sexy AMG body styling and sweet 19-inch twin 5-spoke alloy wheels on the outside and soft black semi-aniline leather and black body ash wood trim on the inside was my ride for the week. And, suddenly, I had so many places to go. Showing off? Me? Never. (wink)

Previewing Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation was the first outing. And, like the Benz, it was so a winner. Love, love Rebecca Ferguson. Like, seriously, where did they find this badass? Only quibble: Did Mission Impossible feature the right car? Fantastic Four was no Mission Impossible. After that screening, a friend checked out all the premium goodness that is the 2015 CLS400. His warning:  Stay away from any trap-like settings Future would approve! Remember “Benz Friends” where Future insists to not give a [bleep] about a Benz? Sure, we believe you! After a private listening event for Vivian Green, another friend, who spied the CLS on social media, wanted to play Robin. Her verdict: way too low to the ground but pretty.

Valet looked too happy to see it at a press luncheon for comedic actor Brandon T. Jackson and, later, at one of his UPTOWN Comedy Corner shows. An outing with friends for sangria became a “how can I be down?” moment once valet rolled it out. The most fun: hanging with my teenage girl cousins from Chicago who loved, loved the ride inside and out. Yes it totally seats four comfortably.

Mercedes-Benz CLS400 CoupeBut it’s not all paradise. Something about grabbing the center console gear shifter is just so much sexier than shifting gears on the steering wheel. Stepping up to the Benz didn’t always open sesame either. Still it’s hard to go wrong with 329 horsies, a V-6 engine, 7-speed automatic transmission and a top speed of 131 mph. As a bonus, eco-mode assures more than decent gas mileage, with 30 highway and 20 city serving as totally plausible numbers. Safety features are on point too. Just let a car try and hit you! And it’s truly spacious with enough trunk space to hold three reasonably-sized luggage.

Of course it’s not cheap: the 2015 CLS400 Coupe starts at almost $66,000, with amenities like navigation, power-folding mirrors and WiFi included with the premium package, the surround view camera system in the parking assist package and pre-safe brake with pedestrian recognition in the driver assistance package, tallying up to just over $84,000.

Oh there’s a reason rappers prefer Benz the most in their rhymes!

ronda racha penrice

 

 

 


Shake up the 4th of July with these cocktails

This 4th of July, shake it up a little and indulge your inner mixologist. Go gluten-free with "A Fiery Ménage" created by Niccole Trzaska at The Liberty in NYC using the California-made Ménage á Trois Triple Berry Vodka. Got rum and fruit lovers? Try the Strawberry Firecracker, concocted by John Henderson of The Happiest Hour in NYC made with the California-bottled Sugar Island Coconut Rum. For the harder core drinker? Break out Kentucky's own Maker's 46 for the Blueberry 46 Sparkler.  Recipes are below, so get to shaking! –Ronda Racha Penrice

A Fiery Menage Cocktail

A Fiery Ménage

1 ½ parts Ménage à Trois Triple Berry Vodka

¼ part cinnamon simple syrup

½ part lemon juice

¼ part wild berry syrup

5 parts dry sparkling wine (such as Ménage à Trois Prosecco)

Add all ingredients over ice. Shake and strain into a champagne flute, top with Champagne. 

 

Strawberry Firecracker Cocktail

Strawberry Firecracker

1.5 parts Sugar Island Coconut Rum

1-2 strawberries

0.5 parts fresh lime juice

1-2 packets of your choice of sugar substitute

Splash of ginger ale or ginger beer

Muddle sweetener and strawberries together; add lime, rum and ice. Shake and strain into a tall glass with ice. Top with a splash of ginger ale (diet optional) or ginger beer.  Garnish with half a strawberry on the rim of the glass. 

Blueberry 46 Sparkler Cocktail

Blueberry 46 Sparkler 

2 parts Maker's 46™ Bourbon

1 part St-Germain

10 fresh blueberries

Splash of club soda

Muddle the St-Germain and blueberries together in a glass. Add ice and the Maker’s 46™. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Strain into a chilled rocks glass and top with splash of soda.


Why the 2015 Hyundai Azera Limited warrants serious consideration

20150629_152131
2015 Hyundai Azera Limited in Eclipse Black

Remember when Hyundai was a joke? Well, these days, more people are laughing all the way to the bank. Over the years, Hyundai has honed in on delivering more car for less. And the Azera is a testament to that.

Top of the line for the brand, the 2015 Hyundai Azera Limited is a sedan that competes with the Toyota Avalon and the Chevy Impala. Slightly refreshed for 2015, the Azera boasts new front and back bumpers, along with a stylish set of five lights under each headlight. Inside, it's amenity-filled with adjustable power front seats with “leather surfaces,” interior ambient lighting, heated and ventilated front seats, along with heated back seats, dual auto temperature control and more. Play peek-a-boo with the sun or welcome it all the way in with the panoramic tilt-and-slide sunroof.

Open sesame! With just a touch of the handle and simply push-button start to get rolling. In reverse, the back-up camera comes on and the rear power sunshade comes down. Should an unseen car emerge from the side, a pleasant, but effective beep sounds off. The same thing happens if another car gets too close or gets lost in the blind spot.

2015 Hyundai Azera Limited

Since every door has a drink slot, in addition to the two between the front passenger seats and two between the back passenger seats, loading up on drinks is easy and clean. Thanks to the ample power plugs for USB, car charger and iPod under the center display console, and the bonus chargers, that include a side front passenger charger close and another one for back seat passengers, who will appreciate the comfortable legroom, everyone can stay happily charged.

20150629_152208

The media section, which comes with a 90-day Sirius XM trial, is a nice set-up. In audio mode, the song title is visible and there’s even a CD player. Navigation displays greatly so eyes stay glued to the road without getting lost. Park the car, lock it and the side mirrors tuck themselves in. Fuel economy registers at 28 on the highway and 19 in the city for a combined MPG of 22. Run low on gas and a warning flashes on screen with an offer to find a nearby gas station. But the best part just might be the 2015 Hyundai Azera Limited's price tag of just over $39,000! –ronda racha penrice


Chandon gets "Red, White & Rosé"

Chandon 4th of JulyCelebrating July 4th naturally means libations for many of us. While beer remains popular, there’s nothing wrong with trying out new cocktails. And the 2015 Chandon American Summer Limited Edition Brut and Rosé might help there.

The bottles themselves are quite distinctive, with the Brut Classic wrapped in nautical blue and white stripes and the Rosé flaunting hot pink and cool white stripes. For three years now, Chandon has offered the patriotically-themed bubbly but the hot pink is a first, as is the Rosé itself.

For those not quite familiar with the brand, Chandon is an American sparkling wine founded in 1973 by Moët & Chandon and cultivated in Napa Valley. Because only brands grown in France’s Champagne region can be classified as Champagne, Chandon is designated as a “sparkling wine” despite its bubbly pedigree.

Available through Labor Day, the 750ml bottles can be found for $22-$24, with the Brut also available in a mini-version of 187ml for $8, at Chandon.com and select retailers. Tech lovers can also use the Blippar app on their phones to unlock an interactive world that includes a “Summer Selfie” experience by just scanning the bottle.

Need a slightly simpler experience to make it a #ChandonSummer? Just try the two cocktails below.

image005

Sparkling Shandy

2 oz. lemonade

1 tsp ginger beer tonic

2 oz. Chandon Brut Classic

Candied ginger and a lime wheel

Pour the lemonade into a rocks glass. Add the ginger beer tonic and stir. Add the Brut and ice. Arrange candied ginger and a lime wheel on a toothpick and place over the rim of the glass. Serve.

 

image007

Summer Sweet & Savory

3 oz. strawberry lemonade
3 dashes Strawberry Rhubarb bitters
2-3 oz. Chandon Rosé
Sprig of fresh summer savory
2 large strawberries, quartered

Pour the strawberry lemonade into shaker. Add the bitters and ice. Shake. Strain into a coupe or other decorative glass. Add the summer savory and strawberries. Top with Rosé and serve.


Straight Shots: Spirits for Dad on Father's Day

Hennessy and Crown Royal probably already have a place at your dad's bar. But chances are none of the spirits below do. So treat the old man and expand his palate a little. After all, there's nothing wrong with a bourbon, tequila, rye whiskey or all three! –ronda racha penrice

Maker's Mark Cask Strength Bourbon Whisky

Maker's Mark Cask Strength Full Bottle

A new product and just the third ever in the famed Maker's Mark family released just this year, Cask Strength is exactly what it sounds like. Unfiltered and uncut, the latest from the seventh generation Kentucky distillers is roughly 108-114 proof. Although it's strong, it's also smooth and totally worth the $59.99 for the 750 ml bottle if you can find the already popular spirit.

Casa Noble Crystal Tequila

CN Crystal Bottle

Nothing quite says pure like crystal and this pride of Mexico is just that. As a brand, Casa Noble dates back to the late 1700s. Made of 100% blue agave, the multiple award-winning tequila is triple distilled for purity and quality and then casked in white French oak barrels. As an added bonus, it's also certified organic, with a standard 750 ml bottle retailing for $39.99.

Rye Templeton Whiskey 

Templeton Rye Bottle

Inspired by the Prohibition-era whiskey made in Iowa that Al Capone reportedly preferred, Templeton Rye has a very interesting backstory. In recent years, the Midwest spirit that came to the market in the 2000s has had its challenges but that's to be expected of anything associated with Capone right? At any rate, its pleasing taste and interesting bottle is surely something that dad can dig, especially at $39.99 for a 750 ml bottle.


D-Drive: Three Dad-Approved SUVs

Lots of dads just don’t do minivans, especially not the cool ones. And, thankfully, they don’t have to. These three rides are proof positive that it is indeed possible to cart the family around in style, plus look good when riding solo. –ronda racha penrice2015_Chevrolet_Tahoe_17

For 2015, the Chevy Tahoe was completely redesigned. So, like dad, it’s gotten better with time. Its exterior is sturdy, strong and stylish. Inside is quite roomy with front and second row bucket seats plus a third row that’s great for the littlest ones. And, as an added bonus, the second and third row are powered. Heated and cooled seats keeps dad and passenger comfortable. Cold-weather dads can minimize the freeze thanks to the keyless start, remote keyless entry and heated steering wheel. Power moonroof and rear seat entertainment options pack even more of a punch. Keeping safe is a great feature of the Tahoe with available safety features including side blind zone alert, land departure warning and forward collision alert, in addition to the standard rearview camera system. MPG is 16 city and 22 highway. Pricing starts at around $62,000 and taps out at just under $70,000 with all the added amenities. And the drive is as smooth as it looks.

Photo by Sam VarnHagen/Ford Motor Co.
Photo by Sam VarnHagen/Ford Motor Co.

The 2015 Ford Expedition is indeed big, bigger than the Tahoe actually, so it’s tailor-made for the big daddies. In fact, its third row seating seats adults so it’s perfect for teenagers and grown kids.  In addition, it offers the comforts of heated/cooled front seats, heated second row seats, along with a standard power moonroof. The blind spot info system is one of its many standout safety features. Because it is bigger than the Tahoe, the Expedition has more trunk space and carries more weight overall. Despite its advanced size, however, the Expedition handles very well. Its MPG is 14 in the city and 20 on the highway, with base pricing starting at just over $59,000 and tapping out at just under $70,000.

2015 Lincoln Navigator

Word is that the Lincoln Navigator is up for a redesign but, in the meantime, dads who love that old school feel mixed in with some new school flavor will appreciate the Navigator just the way it is. Its big-bodied for sure and, given its bold look, there's little wonder the 2015 Lincoln Navigator found its way onto Empire. On the show, the Navigator always appears with a driver and the kids will indeed know why. A sliding step (okay technically powered running boards) emerges once the doors open. Nights are totally on fleek as the Lincoln hologram flashes on the ground leaving and approaching the vehicle. Now some dads who take a look at the Expedition will be disappointed to see some similarities in features in the Lincoln Navigator, even if they are small. But, overall, the Navigator is a tad more luxurious but also highly functional. For those who require more space, there is an extended version that allows for third row seating. MPG is 15 in the city and 20 on the highway. Top of the line pricing comes in at around $74,000