Written with Karin E. Baker
Masters of Taste, our favorite local fundraiser, takes its beverages as seriously as the cuisine. At the 2023 strolling event at the Rose Bowl, they offered beer from the likes of Tarantula Hills Brewing Company, Macleod Ale, and the San Fernando Brewing Company. One of our favorite beers was from Arts District Brewing Company: Kindling Smoked Helles Lager, which was awarded Best in Show at the 2023 Brewers Cup of California. Their Tiger Lily Wood-Aged Golden Sour was another crowd-pleaser.
Participating vineyards included The Hitching Post, Woodford Reserve, Moraga Bel Air, Navarro Vineyards, and Paul Warson, whose 2018 GSM Blend 1102 (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre), with grapes from the Santa Ynez Valley, was a real standout.
Masters of Taste always hosts the most skilled mixologists in Los Angeles. One of the best cocktails of the day was the Blackberry Press from Mi Piace, a white-tablecloth Italian restaurant in Pasadena (Try the short rib ravioli!). Both of their cocktails featured Suntory Haku Vodka, a longtime favorite of ours. The Blackberry Press was made with Suntory Haku Vodka, Ventura Spirits Limoncello, a house-made blackberry-mint syrup, and lemon juice. Also on the menu was The Orange Grove, a mix of Suntory Haku Vodka, Campari, house-made basil syrup, grapefruit juice and lemon juice.
The Raymond 1886, a regular at this event, did not disappoint. Spirits of every variety were featured in delectable cocktails. Two of the drinks featuring brown spirits were the Battle of the Roses (Appleton Estate Rum, strawberry/raspberry syrup, mint, grapefruit, and lime), and the Master Roshi (Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon, Gran Classico, fig syrup, angostura bitters, orange peel). The Andromeda from Miguel Perez was a bit lighter, with Roku Gin, Rosemary/Vanilla Syrup, lemon juice and soda water, although gin does tend to sneak up on you.
When we think of Maple Block, we usually think of meat, but their mixologists are just as deserving of attention. When Life Gives you Peaches from Maple Block Liquor Bar’s Matthew Kretschmer went down very easy for a whiskey drink. The glass of Maker’s Mark 46, peaches, and lemon juice was garnished with quirky peach sour ring candy.
Naturally indigo-colored thanks to butterfly pea blossoms, award-winning Empress 1908 Gin is micro-distilled. Mixed with elderflower seltzer, as it was at Masters of Taste, it made for a violet-hued cocktail that looked as gorgeous as it tasted.
The Qué Padre Margarita from Isaias Pena of Qué Padre combined Tres Generaciones Tequila, Lime, Orange, and agave to make a refreshing spring cocktail. Isaias Pena was also a lot of fun to hang out with after tasting a few cocktails.
LA-based Krafted Spirits uses cane sugar from the island of St. Croix to make its small-batch rum that’s aged in American charred oak bourbon barrels. We savored both cocktails that Krafted served up: Krafted Kandied Apricot and Krafted Cali Raspberry.
Several of our favorite drinks were nonalcoholic. Pez Cantina’s nonalcoholic Strawberry Guava Agua Fresca was the pure essence of strawberry. Across the field, Bearology, a boba tea and lemonade shop with locations in Pasadena, Arcadia and Hollywood, was serving up a seriously dayglo Kiwi Lemonade and Mango Coconut White Tea.
Perhaps ironically, the best drink of the day may have been simple, pure water. Mountain Valley Spring Water flows naturally from the wilderness of the Ouachitas Mountains in the Arkansas River Valley. It is bottled in glass to preserve its mineral-rich taste since 1871. Glass is also better for the planet. At Masters of Taste, the water was bottled in 100% recyclable aluminum, which kept the water cold, and felt better on the lips than plastic, or even glass bottles. We will definitely be looking into home delivery.