Good Tidings And Spirits To Kick Off The Holidays

unnamed-2A good journalist will do whatever it takes to get the story. Tenacity and great moxie define a reporter’s drive. Sometimes you have to lean on a source to get the information you need. Sometimes you relentlessly pursue a lead until you get results.  And sometimes you need to drink copious amounts of alcohol – all in the name of journalism, of course. It’s rough, but someone has to do it.

The Village Voice recently hosted its second annual Holiday Spirits bash, and “good tidings and spirits” takes on a whole different holiday connotation when taking more than 25 distilleries into account. I felt like I had fallen into a real-life, grownup and slightly surreal type of Charlie in the Chocolate Factory dream come true.  As many festive tastes and cocktails as I wanted?  A moonlit cruise down the Hudson with the city lights twinkling in the background as Lady Liberty kept watch? Um, yes please. It really is the most wonderful time of the year.

unnamed-4 unnamed-5There were truly too many to count, but my favorites among the lineup were:

Scorpian Mezcal tequila, whose motto is “worms are for wimps” – hence the scorpion. I wouldn’t have thought tequila would go well in hot chocolate, but it just goes to show what I’ve been missing. Chocolaty goodness with the golden glow of tequila and whipped cream or marshmallows (but let’s be real, whipped cream and marshmallows) = Come To Mama.

Sorel Artisanal Liqueur. Just saying “liqueur” makes me feel I should be drinking with my pinky up, as if sophistication could be gleaned from proximity to fancy liqueurs — or so it would seem after sipping many cordials and elixirs. Sorel makes an exotic concoction containing Moroccan hibiscus, Brazilian clove, Nigerian ginger, Indonesian nutmeg and grain alcohol to make a liqueur that tastes like Christmas in a glass.

Blat Vodka, the most dangerously smooth vodka I’ve ever tasted, simply light years beyond college days of vodka so egregiously terrible that you’d have to drink it before it ate away the bottom of your paper cup. Or so I’ve heard. The brand touts the slogan “100 percent free of impurities,” and while I don’t know if that’s true, it was certainly smooth sailing.

Dutch’s Spirits, with its glamorous backstory of Dutch Schultz and 1930’s prohibition, when federal agents stumbled upon the biggest bootleg moonshine operation in Dutchess Country ever recorded. Dutch’s still follows that old prohibition recipe, which involves a lot of sugar and fermented champagne yeast in the distillation process.

White Pike Whiskey, proudly described by the bartender as “the Lamborghini of moonshines.” It is indeed a white whiskey, “aged” only 18 minutes (apparently the aging process has a lot to do with a whiskey’s amber hue). The result is a mild flavor, subtle enough for whiskey lovers to drink it in Bloody Mary’s, which is exactly how they served it — a welcome respite from all the sugary, syrupy cocktails floating around.

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There was music, merriment, mounds of hors d’oeuvres, and yours truly imbibed until I made a definitive sloshing sound when walking off the boat. New Yorkers and visitors take note: this is a hit that will surely be coming back around next year to kick off the holiday season right.


p.s. gorgeous boozy video above, right? you can enter to win a weekend in Madrid with your significant other here, yay!

Do you have a go-to cocktail for the holidays?  Share below!

By: Sarah Henry of Written in Chocolate




Adorable Mugs For Your NYC Coffee Lover


It’s no joke that New Yorkers love their coffee.  Just take a peek into any Starbucks, located on every single corner, any time of day.  Always a line!  And $4 lattes!  We’re willing to go (and pay) the distance for a good cup of joe in these parts.

Since just about everyone I know is a coffee-a-holic*, I decided to give crafting some personalized mugs a whirl.  It’s seriously like, a 2 second project, and scores major cute points.  Oh!  And if you want to get really innovative with your gift, you can easily wrap it up with a package of coffee from your favorite coffee house.  Voila!  Getting crafty AND supporting small businesses (and no, my friends, Starbucks does not count as a small business.  Head to Culture Espresso.)


-cheap white mugs

-sharpie (i used a regular one and it seemed to do the trick just fine, but searching the internet for instructions, it seems like some people used the oil-based sharpie, and others pebeo markers.  personal preference, I suppose?)

-an oven


1. Doodle, draw, quote, whatever on your mug.

2. Pop the mug in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then leave it in the oven until completely cooled.

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Done and done!  Important to note that this project works best with hand washing only (not too big a deal since most NYers don’t have dishwashers, ha!)  But maybe include a little note letting the recipient know not to throw it in the dishwasher just in case;-)

These particular ones I crafted for my sister (we have a silly saying about loving each other 10 times on Thursday, and how every day in our world is Thursday…total goofballs, I know!), and my sister-in-law, whose power animal/muse in life is Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girl.  So naturally….WWBWD?

I hope you enjoyed this little project! 

Would love to know…what would be on your DIY mug?  Share below!

By: Jessica Tiare Bowen

*okay, not EVERYONE in NYC loves coffee.  I’ve met my fair share of tea lovers, and this project would work just swimmingly for them, too!  And for my vino drinkers, I personally love the concept of quoting, “shhh, there’s a chance there’s wine in here.”  I mean, just in case anyone is looking for a gift for me…;-)




5 Can’t Miss Shows This Season (Fall 2014)

I give my regards to Broadway, (and Off-Broadway), as much as humanly possible.  Between myself and our illustrious theater guru/critic Joanne, we see A LOT of shows here at UsedYorkCity.  So narrowing them down for our seasonal roundup is no easy feat, as you can probably imagine.  But, despite all the really great theater that’s out there right now, we were able to come up with five shows that struck our hearts a little bit deeper, made us laugh a little bit harder, and had us talking a little bit longer than most.

They’re all pretty different, but we’re certain there’s one here that will speak to you.

The Lion King


Ok, this show has been on Broadway for the longest.  But I must shamefully confess, until this fall, I had never seen it.  I guess I was just thinking, “hmm, ginormous animal heads on actors strutting around on stilts?  there’s just no way that can ever be on par with beauty and the beast or aladdin.”  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  I seriously had chills during the opening scene as the animals came down the aisles, and those chills didn’t subside until long, long after I left the theater that evening.

You’ll love this if: Obviously, if you loved the original Disney movie, you’ll have a great time singing along (in your head, of course) to every single number.  A totally appropriate show for kids, and honestly, I just can’t think of any adult who wouldn’t absolutely love this.  Let’s just call it a MUST see for all ages.

SummaryGiraffes strut, birds swoop, gazelles leap – the entire Serengeti comes to life. And as the music soars, Pride Rock slowly rises from the stage. This is THE LION KING. A spectacular visual feast, this adaptation of Disney’s much-loved film transports you to a dazzling world that explodes with glorious colors, stunning effects and enchanting music. At its heart is the powerful and moving story of Simba, and his epic journey from wide-eyed cub to his destined role as King of the Pridelands.



I usually err on the side of musicals over plays when picking my Broadway shows.  And yet.  Disgraced completely blew me out of the water, and I can honestly say it was the most moving play I’ve ever had the experience to see.  It deals with a lot of tough topics…religion, race, affairs, nature versus nurture and how it shapes us from an early age…perhaps instilling ideas that can never quite be shaken.

While I personally disagreed with the way they presented the Islam religion, I would certainly recommend this to anyone looking for a deep show that provokes hours (yes, HOURS) of discussion afterwards.  Whether you leave the theater feeling wowed or infuriated, the point is you WILL feel, and you will feel strongly.  Isn’t that what Broadway is all about?

You’ll love this if: You’re open to a show discussing deep topics that are usually discouraged at the dinner table (politics and religion).  It’s not a feel good show, in fact, the ending is pretty depressing.  But it will leave you anything but speechless and provides tons of fodder for conversation post-show.

SummaryDISGRACED is the story of a successful Muslim-American attorney who has renounced his religion and secured a coveted piece of the American Dream. Living high above Manhattan’s Upper East Side, he and his artist wife host an intimate dinner party that is about to explode. Witty banter turns to vicious debate, and with each cocktail comes a startling new confession, painting an unforgettable portrait of our perception of race and religion.

Love Letters


You’ll recall from Joanne’s full length review that we’re enormous fans of this Broadway delight.

You’ll love this if: You are a romantic at heart, and can appreciate a show with no sets, no elaborate costume changes, no blocking, no stage directions…but a really beautiful story unfolding of the lives of the two thespians.  Expect your heart to be flooded with emotions, the warm and fuzzy kind.

SummaryLOVE LETTERS is a disarmingly funny and unforgettably emotional portrait about the powerful connection of love. Two friends, rebellious Melissa Gardner and straight-arrow Andrew Makepeace Ladd III have exchanged notes, cards and letters with each other for over 50 years. From second grade, through summer vacations, to college, and well into adulthood, they have spent a lifetime discussing their hopes and ambitions, dreams and disappointments, and victories and defeats. But long after the letters are done, the real question remains: Have they made the right choices or is the love of their life only a letter away?

Sex Tips From A Gay Man To Straight Women


You’ll blush, you’ll laugh, you’ll have the most titillating 80 minutes of theater, quite possibly ever.

You’ll love this if: You like to laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh.  This is a show to go to with a group of friends, bachelorette party, or even your significant other (mine loved it!)  Have a few cocktails beforehand, and be prepared for a truly fun and entertaining night at the theater.

SummaryIn this hilarious new romantic comedy based on the best-selling book of the same title, audiences are welcomed into a fun-filled world of insider advice that could only be culled from that most insightful of individuals: the gay man. The play is set at a local university auditorium where the English department holds its monthly meet the authors event.

Robyn is the shy and studious moderator of the event and this month’s featured author is Dan Anderson of Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man. With the help of a hunky staged assistant named Stefan, Dan aims to turn this meet the authors event upside down with a highly theatrical, audience interactive sex tip seminar.

Will Stefan’s muscles be used for more than moving more than heavy scenery? Will the power of Dan’s tips prove too titillating for even Robyn to resist? As with everything at this event…that is for Dan to know, and you to find out!



 As Joanne says, “This is my 3rd visit to a revival of “Cabaret” and I can assure you that like good wine, it improves with age. This is a vintage year.”  Check out our full review here.

You’ll love this if: You’re looking for a tried and true classic.  It’s an intimate theater which will have you up close and personal to the cast…the singing, dancing, and story line will have you high-kicking long after you leave the theater.

Summary: Right this way, your table’s waiting at Cabaret, John Kander, Fred Ebb and Joe Masteroff’s Tony-winning musical about following your heart while the world loses its way.

 By: Jessica Tiare Bowen

p.s. check out our roundups from Spring 2014 and Fall 2013.




Learning The Art Of The Tilt, Swirl, Sniff, Sip, And Spit


Wine tasting notes have always made me kind of giggle. I mean, it’s all fun and games talking about notes of honeysuckle, fresh pear and citrus. But then it so often veers into the implausible with something along the lines of “reminiscent of fresh cactus” (as if you’ve ever stuffed a cactus in your mouth and then likened it to something grape derived).

And then there’s the just bizarre, where I tend to draw the line. When it comes to the complexities of the wine’s aroma and citing “freshly mown grass,” not to mention “hints of gunflint” and “pencil shavings” (I kid you not folks these have actually shown up on real wine descriptions) I give up on the little pamphlet guiding me to the perfect wine. After all, this is supposed to be in theory an enjoyable beverage I might pair with food, not the items you might find in shop class.

Likewise, wine shops can be overwhelming. My thoughts generally run the gamut of “Do I really want to fork over $45 for a bottle of Chianti the salesclerk is practically salivating over?” And then, “Have I even had Chianti? How do I pronounce Chianti? Better let her say it first… Now what’s she saying about tannins? What the heck are tannins anyway? I really wish I could just crack open the bottle try before I buy.”

Luckily in New York City opportunities exist to do just that.  I had the good fortune to recently practice my best tilt, swirl, sniff, sip, and spit. Just kidding, I didn’t spit. That would be unladylike, and well, wasteful.

The second annual NYC Autumn Wine Festival, which took place in the beautiful and stately downtown Broad Street Ballroom, seriously had everything one could want to facilitate some serious vino higher learning.

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There were 34 different tables set up with venders featuring wines from all over the world. There was live music. There were sophisticated snacks, — most notably lots of cheese, because no combination has been so perfect since peanut butter met jelly.  The wines did mostly come with descriptive prose, yes, but there were often helpful hints about which foods would go best with which wines. There was even a coffee table, just in case you started feeling drowsy after so many samples.

Perhaps the best part of the experience was being able to approach someone highly knowledgeable with a few vague comments about my preferences, such as liking semi-dry, fruity reds, and being introduced to say, the stunners at table sweet 16, Domenico Valentino.

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This table featured all Italian reds with great depth and flavor ranging from sweet and light to spicy and robust. The representative even shared a little history, noting that one wine was produced by a passionate, one-man operation, while another made in the “heel country” in Italy, referring to the boot-shaped geographic region.

Another table housed a selection of ice wines, which I always equated to just mean sweet or dessert wines, but they are indeed made from frozen grapes. Picked after late harvest, the grapes are left on the vine until the frost comes, then hand-picked and pressed while frozen. It takes about 2,000 grapes to make a single bottle!

Even sparkling ciders made an appearance, with Standard Cider Company’s “True Believer” tasting exactly like taking a bite of a crisp, juicy (alcoholic) apple. Brilliant.

Cheers to the NYC Autumn Wine Festival for helping to expand New Yorkers’ tasting horizons. Be sure to visit their website for information on upcoming events.

Would love to know…what’s your go-to vino for fall?  Share below!

By: Sarah Henry of Written in Chocolate

This post is part of Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox.




In Fields Where They Lay + Giveaway

This contest has officially ended. A huge New York thank you to all who participated, and congrats to our winner, Javi! Stay tuned for more exciting giveaways!

Now that we’re all in a big ol’ turkey coma, it’s time to start officially ramping up for the next holiday celebration: Christmas!  Cue the jingle bells!  To kick off the season, we’re doing ticket giveaways to the Christmas showIn Fields Where They Lay“.  Here’s all the info:


It was the War to End All Wars. It was a Christmas like no other. These are the men who made history. In Fields Where They Lay is a play with music that tells the incredible true story of the World War I Christmas Truce – the spontaneous ceasefire between British and German soldiers that began with the singing of Christmas carols across No Man’s Land on the night of December 24th, 1914. Partially based on the letters and diaries of real frontline soldiers, the play marks the 100th anniversary of the truce by bringing this stirring and unsettling, hopeful and tragic story to life in the words of the men who lived it.


Here’s how to enter:

1. Subscribe to Used York City, which signs you up for our monthly newsletter. (Don’t forget to respond to the verification message you are sent via email. Former subscribers are automatically entered!)

2. For a bonus entry, tag your favorite NYC moment of the week on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #UsedYorkCity


The contest will run until Tuesday, December 2nd, at which time a winner will be randomly chosen and announced on this post and via Twitter, and the winner will be notified directly by the email address that they subscribed with! Best of luck to all our readers!

p.s. if you don’t win the tickets, here’s a code for discounted ticket prices: RR1914NYC.


By: Jessica Tiare Bowen