Every month, Delaware Today heads to a local establishment to taste-test libations. Our favorites will make a splash here.
Where to find it: Swigg Real Wine, Craft Beer & Spirits
1601 Concord Pike, Independence Mall, Wilmington
427-9444 • swiggwine.com
Inspired by Merchant Bar’s “Mamacita”—bartender Diego Paqui’s twist on the traditional margarita consisting of smoky mezcal, house-made jalapeño-infused blanco tequila and vanilla syrup with splashes of freshly squeezed lemon juice and pineapple juice served in a rocks glass over one large ice cube—I’ve trialed, errored and eventually concocted my own refreshing COVID-19 quarantine beverage. It starts with El Buho Mezcal Artesanal, a small-batch mezcal made from 100 percent agave Espadin in the heart of Oaxaca, Mexico, by the Jimenez family, who’ve been producing this smooth and smoky sip for five generations. Savored neat, you may detect notes of dark chocolate, vanilla, caramel, citrus and salt—but I’ve been adding a generous pour of GT’s lemonade kombucha (at Sprouts, Whole Foods and Giant), a splash of fresh pineapple juice, a hard squeeze of a lemon or lime, and two standard ice cubes. On the rim? A coarse layer of citrus jalapeño salt, which serves up a tangy kick. It’s best enjoyed with just-opened (i.e. fizzy) kombucha. So, when my lemonade went flat, I stirred in GT’s Mystic Mango—also delicious, but hold the pineapple and citrus. Cheers to the dog days of summer and staying cool. —Ashley Breeding
Where to find it: Del Pez Mexican Gastropub
400 Justison St., Wilmington
691-7974 • delpezmexicanpub.com
I attended college in Louisiana (Geaux Tigers!), so the concept of to-go cocktails is near and dear to my heart. One of my fondest memories is piling into the car with friends to grab some Mexican food at a restaurant that resembled an expanded, dressed-up garage—think counter ordering, inside-meets-outside dining and beer signs galore. And, of course, at the end of our meal, we’d order margaritas to go. In the Sportsman’s Paradise, this means a boozy slushy poured into a plastic cup with a lid. (Sorry, Mother Earth.) The cups were transported safely to our shotgun-style home-away-from-parents’-home to be enjoyed. So, when COVID-19 changed how we could interact with our favorite restaurants, I welcomed the opportunity to relive my college days by ordering to-go margaritas—albeit options that were a bit more grown-up. Along with enchiladas and chimichangas from Del Pez Mexican Gastropub, my partner and I picked up their 64-ounce traditional El Chavo margarita. The half-gallon container was premixed with the classic flavors of tequila, orange liqueur and lime juice, which we enjoyed shaken over ice in lowball glasses. The sweet, citrusy taste mixed with the buzz of tequila took me right back to nights of celebration and friendship, and helped lighten the mood of more than a month of social isolation. The jug o’ juice lasted longer than one night for two people, which allowed the opportunity to say “cheers” once more that weekend. —Meg Ryan
Where to find it: Total Wine & More
Locations throughout Delaware
On a recent trip out to dinner over the border in Pennsylvania, I was perusing the draft beer list on a hunt for something new and different. Normally I do my very best to stick to local or regional beers, but this night, in the dimness of the establishment, two words jumped out to me from the page: Elvis Juice.
Honestly, with a name like that, how could I resist? So without even reading the description, I placed my order and hoped for the best.
I was rewarded for my random choice with a pleasant surprise. Brewed in Ohio but brought to us via the Scotland-based BrewDog, Elvis Juice is reminiscent of the popular New England IPA style—with heavy fruit notes up front thanks to the liberal use of grapefruit peel in the brewing process that balance the IPA hoppiness and provide a pleasant, satisfying citrusy finish. Falling into the moderate ABV sweet spot of 6.5 percent, it’s a good choice for tucking in with a meal—my entrée that night was deconstructed red snapper tacos—and potentially opting for a second before the dessert course arrives.
Right now, Elvis Juice might be hard to find on draft locally, but given the current stay-at-home order amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s the perfect time to visit the beer cooler, experiment with some take-home options you might not have normally tried and get your beer routine all shook up. —Scott Pruden
Where to find it: Bardea Food & Drink
620 N. Market St., Wilmington
426-2069 • bardeawilmington.com
A surprising fact: CBD (short for cannabidiol, a primary active compound found in cannabis plants) was discovered 20 years before THC, in 1940, by Dr. Roger Adams and his team of scientists at the University of Illinois. It would be more than two decades before its properties were better understood, and another 50 years before this nonpsychoactive fix came to dominate the cannabis industry. (It went mainstream in 2018 after the Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp at the federal level.) For a recent issue of DT’s ancillary 302Health publication, Wilmington native Alex Capano—she’s the first in the U.S. to hold a doctorate in cannabis science—shared the therapeutic benefits of CBD in its myriad forms. Available in everything from tinctures to topicals, the compound can be helpful in relieving ailments like anxiety, insomnia and even chronic pain. And the best part: There are no known side effects. Alex turned me on to a tincture that promised to induce sounder sleep, and as with most health trends, I was soon curious to try it in other forms to compare results. The most delicious so far was Bardea’s c.bee.d cocktail, a tart yet smooth blend of Bulleit bourbon, house-made CBD-infused honey, fresh lemon juice and simple syrup shaken over ice and served in a coupe glass—or a rocks glass, if you prefer (the drink is also available to-go during the COVID-19 pandemic). Not sure at first whether the calm buzz was from the bourbon or the bees, it revealed itself to be the work of the latter when happy hour turned into hours. —Ashley Breeding, editor of 302Health
Where to find it: Girard Craft & Cork
5 West Girard St., Wilmington
402-9463 • girardcraftandcork.com
Having a premium spirits, fine wine and craft beer store practically in your backyard is never a bad thing. When I moved to Wilmington, I was excited to explore the various wine labels sold inside Girard Craft & Cork. Instead of shopping the typical selection at a poorly lit and blandly designed liquor store, I was happy to peruse a range of varieties hailing from different regions and price brackets in an upscale atmosphere. Girard Craft & Cork allows the connoisseur in all of us to emerge when shopping for beer, wine and spirits (the store even offers regular wine tastings and wine club program). As a bonus, sister store Faire Market & Cafe is right there to provide a perfect cheese pairing or meal addition. The wine my partner chose for a recent dinner was the Dogajolo Toscano Rosso I.G.T. Produced in the Tuscany region of Italy, this red wine is 70 percent sangiovese and 30 percent cabernet and other varieties. This combination lends itself to a light taste backed with a full body; it’s soft but bold, easily drinkable but complex. Its fruity taste pairs well with white meat like chicken, as well as roasts and grilled meats. It’s a wine that will make any dinner guest ask, “Where did you find this?” —Meg Ryan, Associate Editor
Where to find it: Stitch House Brewery
829 N. Market St., Wilmington
250-4280 • stitchhousebrewery.com
Author Douglas Adams once famously noted that he loved deadlines, especially the whooshing sound they made as they went past. So as a lifelong ink-stained writer all too familiar with editors asking for work that’s maybe a little late, it was almost against my professional code of conduct to pass up the Blown Deadline IPA on the menu at Stitch House Brewery. Copper in color, this potent (7.5 ABV) India pale ale comes with fragrant and tasty hoppiness on the front end, finishing clean and far less bitter than many of its IPA peers. That extra alcohol punch merits some good judgment on your part if you are, as I was, enjoying a brew with lunch (the Smoked Chicken Salad, made with grapes, dill mayo and arugula on ciabatta). Fortunately, Stitch House’s friendly staff are happy to pour up a half-pint, as a full pour might put you in too good a mood for that afternoon budget meeting. Happy hour (4 to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday) is a different story, where Blown Deadline is a featured selection, and a toast to those unfinished tasks might warrant a full pint. —Scott Pruden, Executive Editor