Some dear friends of mine are trying to launch what I think will be an awesome progressive cocktail bar in New York City: Tarbell. I’m confident it’s going to be an excellent place to get a fine cocktail, as well as an important new home for muckraking journalists and progressive activists to meet and conspire.
Posting has slowed to a crawl here, but I wanted to go back a few months and flag an article by master barman Derek Brown of The Columbia Room (and many other outstanding efforts in DC over the years). In it he discusses the notion that bartenders should probably stop making up their own cocktails at the rate they currently do.
Surely both consumer and pundit proffered this deluge by pushing the latest in cocktail trends and charting maps where you can drink new cocktails made with quirky ingredients such as dehydrated carrots, yogurt and thai chiles. Not that any of those ingredients ipso facto make a bad cocktail. On the contrary, I love the incorporation of new ingredients, but here the impetus is sadly on creativity and not craft, likely fueled by
something Sigmund Freud dubbed the “narcissism of small differences.”
With this specific narcissistic tendency, each person creates their own little world populated with minor and specific tastes that hardly do more than draw an artificial distinction between similar categories. There’s certainly a place for preference but underlying a person’s insistence on “not too sweet, floral and spicy” versus another’s “violet, tart with a hint of jalapeño” are irreconcilable differences that are waved as though they were flag and country, creating a tribe-of-one prepared to battle opposing tribes for failing to recognize the universality of their claim. What place does a well-made daiquiri have in this world?
Too often, bartenders, rather than sharpening our axes, studying, searching and trying to find meaning among the thousands of cocktails already created, the neophyte–and even sometimes seasoned veterans, I’m afraid–indulge in the worst possible fantasy: that of some mixological Prometheus who steals the eternal flame of creativity from the old, stuffy Gods and re-imagines it as lavender-infused ice or cinnamon-ancho rim. The unfortunate result is that it’s our liver and not theirs that is forever picked at by these often vile and outlandish combinations.
Yes. Yes. A thousand times, yes. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, just because you can make it doesn’t make it a good idea.
Brown goes on to suggest some solutions to this problem – basically guidelines for how bartenders can protect themselves (and their customers) from their own worst instincts.
The 90/10 Rule
This rule was born with a simple proposition. For every cocktail you create, try learning nine classic cocktails first, or 90% of your cocktails should be classics and 10% should be new creations. This rule is by no means fail-proof but it’s certainly a way to make sure you practice the basics before proceeding. The very worst that could happen is that you add nine new drinks to your repertoire. Not so bad really.
Forget About It
Remember the recipe for that cocktail you created in 2004? What was it, Sage-infused Tequila, Navan and grapefruit? No, then forget about it. If you have trouble recalling the ingredients to your past creations it may well be because the drink sucked. Trust me, the best recipes are ones that come to mind easily, are often requested and frequently suggested. Everything else is likely fodder.
The Shift-drink Test
If the “90/10″ and “Forget About It” rules fail you, your next line of defense may well be the best one of them all and it goes for both professional and amateur bartenders alike. We become the most critical after a hard-worked shift behind the stick (or any job really). At the end of the day, we just don’t have the tolerance we had at the beginning for pure and utter crap. Imagine sitting down to a Cachaça blood-orange toddy with a bacon-crusted rim. If you can’t, it’s because you have gone too far and are now teetering on that jagged cliff. Go make yourself an old fashioned and relax.
I think these are pretty spot on and, I hope, recognizable as common sense ways to ensure good practice by craft bartenders.
One of the things I love about cocktails is the ability to create, to experiment, to test. In my early days of home bartending, that’s mostly what I did because it was exciting to think I was coming up with something (presumably) for the first time. Of course most of what I came up with was either not good at all or if it was passable, it was fairly forgettable.
Over time I’ve learned that I’m better off making small changes in familiar formats that are easy to remember than trying to start from scratch. I know exactly how I like my Dry Martini, depending on what gins or vermouths or bitters I use. I love playing around with funky tiki drinks. I’ve found some very small tweaks to the Gin Ricky that work great for me. And I’m always swapping around the combinations of vermouth and amari in my Americanos and Negronis.
And that’s just me at home. When I drink out, I tend more towards classics than experimenting with new creations with lots of custom infusions, syrups, and house-made ingredients. Why? Even if I love them, odds are they won’t be replicable by me or most any other bars. They are almost guaranteed to be lost to the ages as soon as the cocktail menu changes. I want more dedicated efforts at permanence than that! I want the romance and the history of drinking 100-200 year old cocktails!
Maybe it’s just me. Or me and Derek Brown. Your mileage may vary for sure and I certainly don’t think there is a wrong answer here, so please don’t be offended if you disagree.
When you look around the Washington DC bar and cocktail scene, the influence of Tom and Derek Brown may be as strong as any other bartenders and proprietors in the city. With stints bartending, managing, designing or owning such excellent spots as Cork, The Gibson, The Passenger, The Columbia Room, New York Avenue Beach Bar and Rogue 24, the range and scope of their creativity has helped define DC as one of the top cocktail towns in America.
Hogo, a new rum bar from Tom Brown, opens today on 1017 7th St NW, just down the block from The Passenger. I was able to check it out last night and came away incredibly impressed. Per an email from Derek Brown, “Hogo is a word used in the Caribbean to designate “high taste”–shortened from the French word hâut-gout–but it really describes the funky, inexplicable taste that you find in traditional aged-rums.” The name fits the interior design of Hogo, which is a mix of comfortably-appointed lounge and nautical and Tiki themed graffiti.
In the back of the bar, there’s a diner. Hogo will be rotating menus on a regular basis to feature some of the city’s top chefs. To start, The Passenger’s Javier Duran is manning the kitchen and the menu is “Hawaiian diner food.” For those not familiar, Hawaiian food is mostly a mix of greasy comfort food and relatively cheap meats. I lived in Hawaii for a while and came away incredibly impressed. Spam Musubi is one of Hawaii’s iconic snacks, featuring a big slab of Spam wrapped on a bed of sushi rice. It’s available at most diners and lots of gas stations too and it’s never been something that I’ve been taken by. But the Spam Musubi at Hogo is simply amazing – something that is at once casual and fancy, paired with a wasabi aoili.
Other traditional offerings included a Loco Moco – two hamburger patties topped with fried eggs and pork sausage gravy, accompanied by rice and mac salad – and a combination plate of Kahlua pork and Kalbi beef. Both were pretty outstanding. Again, this is essentially Hawaiian comfort food. While it’s heavy on the calories, it’s rich in flavor and makes a great accompaniment to some strong rum cocktails.
Since Duran is only the chef at Hogo for the first month, I highly recommend checking it out soon, as this is probably the best Hawaiian food I’ve had on the mainland ever.
Tom has been hosting Tiki Tuesday every week at The Passenger for quite some time now. The practice shines through in the menu and execution in the drinks on the menu at Hogo. I sampled four cocktails last night and each was outstanding.
First up was Black Heart’s Punch, modified from a recipe from Trader Tiki that was made with Cruzan Blackstrap Rum, homemade cinnamon syrup, lime juice and tonic water. It was deep, rich, flavorful and refreshing – a perfect entry into accessible yet interesting Tiki cocktails.
Pinky Gonzales is a classic tiki drink from Trader Vic that’s basically a tequila Mai Tai. At Hogo it’s made with Espolon blanco and Espolon reposado tequila, Cointreau, lime and orgeat. It’s very light and had a well-balanced use of orgeat and citrus, so the almond syrup could shine through as a sweetener and not fade into the background.
In our final round we had a Ti Punch, which is basically a rum old fashioned made with cane syrup and rhum agricole. We also had a Jungle Bird, a cocktail created in 1978 at the Aviary Bar in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Made with Blackwell Jamaican rum, Campari, pineapple and lime, it’s about everything one could want from a Tiki drink with bitter components. It’s bitter sweet, but not overpowering, with an intense tropical feeling.
Every cocktail we had was perfectly prepared, balanced, and interesting. The menu is fairly expansive, with 15-20 drinks in all, so it will take some time for one to make their way through it. That said, I can’t recommend Hogo highly enough. From the cocktails to the food to the ambience to the fact that it’s a project from some of DC’s most respected bartenders, check out Hogo as soon as you can.
Via The Lively Morgue:
Dec. 21, 1933: From the Mid-Week Pictorial. Americans visiting Paris celebrated the end of Prohibition in the United States in a “real two-fisted manner,” its original caption stated.
I’m not sure why Americans abroad waited 16 days to celebrate the end of Prohibition, but it sure looks like they had a good time.
Be sure to raise a glass in honor of the 21st Amendment today.
Here’s a good video on Green Hat Gin and some history from Prohibition in our nation’s capitol:
Do you think the cocktail world sees publishing recipes as revealing secrets? Or more as a way to share and communicate?
I think they fall on both sides. Certainly some of my colleagues are not as giving as others as far as recipes go. Some people proudly consider some of their recipes to be things that they developed over years, they spent a lot of time and energy and resources on them and don’t see the need to just give them away.
But I think there are others, like myself, who are on the complete opposite side. It’s more along the lines of publish or perish. Maybe not perish, but become irrelevant. Maybe it’s because I live in New York, but I find that in New York when you think of a great idea, if you don’t act upon it someone else is going to be acting upon it. I feel like great ideas are more the result of intelligent people putting different things together. So do you want to be remembered, do you want to at least document that when you did it? Or do you want to rely on the oral traditions to verify that? I personally prefer to stake claims. I’d rather document it.
Jacob goes on to write:
A cocktail might appear on my menu for just a few months before it’s replaced with something new. A recipe only lives on if other people make it, and hearing that other people are enjoying my drinks is gratifying. There are merits to making complicated, ephemeral cocktails that only last a season, but it’s also nice to see them proliferate.
I’m with Meehan and Jacob. I’d hope more bartenders share their original cocktail recipes, as a way for helping them spread beyond their own bar. It’s a hell of a lot easier to visit a bar and ask for a modern creation from another cocktail bar if you know the recipe and don’t have to guess at the proportions of ingredients.
But more importantly, one of my favorite things when I go to a craft cocktail bar is seeing them include contemporary recipes from other bars. Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco is the one who always comes to mind when I think of this phenomenon, but others do as well. And when I belly up to the bar and dream about opening my own joint some day, I would absolutely plan on including a section of the menu dedicated to the brilliance and creativity that currently exists in the cocktail world.
There are scores of cocktail bars in America today and hundreds of talented, creative bartenders, coming up with thousands of new cocktails every year. The odds are only a couple of these cocktails will survive the test of time and still be around in fifty or one hundred years. But (essentially) the only way that’s possible is if the bartenders who created them are publishing their recipes. So I’m all for publishing of recipes and helping spread the good ones around. Hell, that’s a big part of what I want to do with this blog.
I’ve never seen a cocktail recipe that included Jeppson’s Malort before. Malort is a famously bitter (some say unto disgusting) spirit, popular in Chicago and amongst masochistic cocktail enthusiasts. As I am a sane person with no desire to regularly inflict too much pain on my taste buds, I do not keep a bottle of Jeppson’s Malort around my house and therefore have not tried this cocktail to assess its merits. Nonetheless, if for no other reason than novelty (and possibly trolling the gentlemen of Scofflaw’s Den), I present to you The Bukowski.
1.5 oz Malort
0.5 oz Drambuie
0.75 oz fresh lemon juice
0.5 oz fresh orange juice
0.5 oz honey syrup (1:1)
5 large basil leaves
Combine ingredients in an ice filled shaker. Shake until you’re confident the Malort is mostly hidden behind the other ingredients. Strain and serve on the rocks, but be prepared to duck in the event the person drinking this cocktail throws it back in your face.
I’ve been ordering wine from Jon Rimmerman’s Garagiste email list for about a year. It’s an email sales only email list, with usually one offer per day of wine. When I buy wine in the liquor store or super market, I’ll usually buy in the $10-20 price range. When drinking wines I’ve never had before bought this way, I’d guess two out of three bottles I buy are pretty mediocre (I’d guess I do better at certain places like Ace Beverage where I have a relationship with the store and can really talk about what I like). While I am into wine, I don’t consider myself an expert and ending up with mediocre wine is one pretty sure indicator of that.
On Rimmerman’s list, I generally stick within that same price range – occasionally going a bit lower or a bit higher, depending on the offering. But in the year I’ve ordered through Garagiste, I haven’t had a single bad bottle of wine. All have been good, some have been great, and at least two have been other-worldly.
Rimmerman is profiled in this week’s New York Times Magazine. It’s a good read. I’m sure it will add tens of thousands of subscribers to his email list. But frankly, that is an earned consequence. The list is stellar and I highly recommend anyone who’s reading this blog to subscribe to it. You can do so through their website. Rimmerman’s daily emails are educational and his wine is top-notch, so even if you’re not already a big wine enthusiast, you can use this list to expand your knowledge base and decrease the amount of money you’re spending on bad wine.
Two words of caution:
First, this is a potentially expensive email list to be on. You provide your credit card information once, then just order by replying to emails. That is, you don’t have the gut check of typing out your credit card digits that may otherwise slow your online purchases down. Be warned.
Second, this is not a source of instant gratification. Shipments come out by season, not immediately after you place an order. I think it was at least four or five months after my first order before I received the wine. But I promise you, it’s worth the wait.
Hidetsugu Ueno, world renowned bartender and owner of Bar High Five in Ginza, Tokyo, Japan, gave an interview to Nick Koumbarakis, proprietor of The Alchemist Says…. It’s a great read on the philosophies of one of the kindest, most thoughtful bar men I’ve come across in the world. When I was in Japan a couple of years ago, I went to Bar High Five and had a fantastic experience. While there I mentioned that I hoped to buy some Japanese bar ware (which is high quality and very expensive in the US), as well as some bottles of Japanese whisky which aren’t imported to the US. First Ueno-san set up an impromptu tasting of a range of high end whiskies, then recommended me to a nearby liquor store which would have them available at better prices than big stores or duty free. Then, much to my delight, Ueno-san said that he was planning on going shopping for bar ware the next day and offered to take me around to the best stores to make my purchases. I happily accepted his generous offer and was able to make some great purchase in a restaurant supply stores that I would have had a hard time navigating otherwise. Oh and in addition to being a complete mensch (as we say in Yiddish), he’s a world-class bartender.
While much of the interview is about his philosophies for bartending and life, Ueno-san’s observation of what makes Japanese cocktail culture unique is really interesting to me. From the Koumbarakis interview:
In Japan we focus entirely on the classics, the vintage way of bartending and not on current trends. There are some trends and techniques that I personally like; People are starting to make their own bitters and vermouths. In saying this, I do believe bartenders should be good at using available products, not making products. There are plenty of products that one can play with. Speakeasy style of bars, vintage books, Mescal in the United States and Rye Whisky in Europe…they are all just trends personally. You can imagine why the Japanese style of bartending got increasingly popular overnight? We are the ones who are constantly surprising. The Japanese style of bartending has not changed in the past 100 years. The rest of world is always looking for something new, something different. We are always focusing on the classics and interpreting those classics in our own way, meticulously and effortlessly.
In my experience, the focus on classic cocktails and perfecting techniques ahead of creating ones’ own ingredients for ones’ original recipes leads to excellence in Japanese bartending. I can relate to the idea that the classics are what are most likely to survive and therefore are the best things to be drinking. Many drinks which have survived from fifty to two hundred years survived because they’re great drinks. Continually trying to make them with greater care and perfection will lead to ever more enjoyable cocktails. While there are literally thousands of contemporary creations by craft bartenders around the globe which are balanced, pleasant, and creative, how many will be around and widely consumed in 100 years? If it’s more than a dozen or two, I’d be surprised. Thus there’s value in what is classic and the Japanese cocktail world seems to place more importance on this than cocktail cultures elsewhere in the world.
I can also relate to the idea that we should use the ingredients which are available not only to us as bartenders, but to the general public. While I appreciate and celebrate the creativity of craft bartenders who create their own ingredients as a vehicle to make the epicurean art they wish to make, it makes it hard for home consumers or even their peers elsewhere in the bar world to follow along. The ability to offer a drink that simply cannot be had elsewhere in the world is surely a good marketing move, but it creates a wall between the bartender and those who would want to enjoy her cocktail outside the confines of her bar.
One of the things that makes bartending incredible is that it is closer to baking than savory cooking. Given a recipe and knowledge of proper techniques, any cocktail can be replicated, providing the ingredients are available. This is challenged when bartenders use products which aren’t available on the market and thus serves as a barrier to the spread of good cocktails.
I don’t mean to sound like a curmudgeon. Part of where I stand is based on a recognition over time that while I appreciate the original cocktails of many bartenders and bars, at the end of the day, there are very few which I find truly memorable. I find much greater joy in a perfectly made Martini or Daiquiri than a creative original creation, as the novelty of the new drink wears off with each sip, while the perfect of a classic can last centuries. As much as I appreciate the creativity of bartenders like Phil Ward or Gina Chersevani, at the end of the day I’d rather see American bartenders focus on perfecting classics than buying lotto tickets that their next original creation might stand the tests of time to become a classic itself.
This isn’t about the bartenders, though. It’s much more about the cocktail consuming public. Somewhere along the lines we consumers developed an expectation that every cocktail bar we go into have 8-20 original cocktails. If consumers instead demanded more and better classics, this could change. Though I have no clue when it will be, I would someday like to open a bar and serve only the finest classic cocktails. Until then, I’ll go around, try a couple new drinks when I visit a bar then switch to classics that I know I’ll truly enjoy.
My good friend Han Shan is, among many other things, a part time bartender at B-Side in the East Village. B-Side is a concrete floored, punk rock juke box, tiny pool table, beer and shots dive that seems to only exist in its purest form in the EVill. But when Han is behind the stick, he’s been known to bring some high end ingredients from his home to make craft cocktails. His bartending is totally incongruous with B-Side and yet totally perfect for a night of drinking.
One of Han’s originally created cocktails was recently named by bartending luminary and master craft cocktailian Gary Regan to be one of the 101 Best New Cocktails of 2012. Here is the Age of Reason:
Age of Reason by Han Shan
2 oz Michter’s rye whiskey
5 oz Pierre Ferrand Cognac Ambre
.5 oz Cochi Americano
1 generous barspoon green Chartreuse
1 generous barspoon yellow Chartreuse
10 drops Bittermens Elemakule Tiki bitters
1 lemon twist
Stir over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Run the twist around the rim of the glass, then discard.
Here’s how Han describes this cocktail:
“The spicy Michter’s rye is the backbone while the cognac smooths the rough edges a bit and the sweet herbaciousness of the Chartreuse(s) play off the spicy bittersweet of the Cochi, with the tiki-inspired bitters doing something alchemical that nothing else on my bar quite did to bring it all together. The lemon oil swipe gives it a brightness in the nose upon first sip and mostly stands back after that as you enjoy this (hopefully) balanced and delicious, easy-drinking, amber-colored quaff.
The drink is named for Tom Paine to recognize the coming together of French & American ingredients. I should have endeavored to find something English to put in there to really make the case but then I’ll call that one the ‘Tom Paine.’
BTW, for me, ‘generous barspoon’= about 1/4 oz. but I always have trouble nailing that with my jigger and one can use a tiny bit less or more to suit one’s tastes. The barspoon works for me. Last note is that the only way you can get one of these (or a decent Manhattan or Sidecar or whatever) at our friendly neighborhood beer-n-shot dive B-Side where I’m currently tending is to alert me ahead of time so I can bring the ingredients with me from home… which I sometimes do.”
And here’s Gaz’s commentary:
The combination of straight rye whiskey and a great (really great) cognac, immediately reminds me of a Vieux Carré, but the similarity ends right there. Han made some bold moves with this drink, and they paid off well—especially in the case of the Bittermens Elemakule Tiki bitters which, on paper, make no sense. In the glass, though, they play a ukulele while the other ingredients dance like Uma Thurman and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction. It’s a drink that brings a smile to my face.
Congrats Han, for making a creative new drink that impressed Gaz Regan!
Obviously I’m less in the craft cocktail scene than I once was, but this still is pretty hilarious.
For those that don’t know, most liquor brands hire brand ambassadors to help sell their spirit to bars, restaurants, bartenders, and the public. The brand ambassadors do things like consult on cocktail recipes that include their brand’s spirit, teach bartenders how to effectively use their product, and travel around doing events promoting it. It’s become a common move for established craft bartenders to go from working behind the stick to traveling the world as a brand ambassador. The New York Times had a piece on this a couple years ago.
As far as it goes, I think it’s great that talented bartenders are able to make the move to jobs that traditionally pay more than bartending. As the video above pokes fun, it’s clear that a brand ambassador is both an amazing job (travel the world, drink on an expense account, go to top bars with top bartenders) that has real drawbacks (always going, always drinking, pressure to get results in a highly competitive market). Still, the fundamental ability for a talented bartender to have an option to move upwards beyond simply opening their own bar is a good thing in my book. As a consumer, though, I’ve had quite a few great bartenders make the jump to brand ambassador, resulting in them spending less or even no time bartending any more. That certainly sucks for me, but it’s hard to root against the people who think are talented finding greater levels of professional success.
Simon Ford demonstrates one of my favorite cocktails, for brunch or otherwise.
Corpse Reviver No. 2
0.75 oz Gin
0.75 oz Lillet Blanc
0.75 oz Cointreau
0.75 oz fresh lemon juice
Rinse chilled cocktail glass with absinthe. Combine gin, Lillet, Cointreau & lemon juice in an ice filled shaker and shake it hard enough to wake the dead. Strain and serve.
It’s hot out. Well today it isn’t too bad, but the last week or so in DC has felt like…a summer in DC. The point is, it’s hot. When it’s hot out, really hot out, upper 80s and beyond with high humidity (that is, almost any day in DC between now and mid-October), there are really only three things I want to drink:
The problem with Pina Coladas, though, is that cream of coconut is so sweet and the consistency makes it a pain to work with. Straight from the can it’s an unmixed pool of syrup and solidified (but delicious) fats. Opening a can means you’re making a bunch and sometimes I just want one. There’s nothing wrong with an inconvenient ingredient, but it certainly makes me think twice about diving head first into making a frozen drink to cool off.
And then there’s America’s most popular cocktail, the Margarita.
I love Margaritas, though I basically only drink them on the rocks, never frozen. To me, a Frozen Margarita is the epitome of a bad cocktail. The tequila is almost always low quality junk. There’s never even a thought to using fresh lime juice – sour mix is a guarantee. The consistency is usually a mess, meaning after five minutes you have half a glass of slush and half a glass of a soon to be warm sour mix and cheap tequila slurry. And yet this is a variation that makes the Margarita the most popular cocktail in America. It’s enough to make one seriously question our national palate.
With all that as a preface, I decided over Memorial Day weekend that I needed to find another frozen cocktail to quench my thirst on hot days. The fact that most places can’t serve a good Frozen Margarita is really no more determinative than the fact that most bars can’t serve a decent Martini. This is a problem that could be solved.
I started doing research to find recipes from bartenders I trusted who might make a decent Frozen Margarita. Not shockingly, Dale DeGroff came through with a killer Frozen Margarita recipe. DeGroff’s book, The Craft of the Cocktail, is one of the canon in my bartending library. DeGroff is a phenomenally important American bartender who helped the craft of bartending well-balanced cocktails survive the dark years of the 80s and 90s. The Craft of the Cocktail both is a great resource for fairly standard, classic recipes for classic cocktails and contains many DeGroff originals which are interesting and worth knowing. But most important of all for me, in a space with numerous cocktail luminaries who’ve published numerous tomes of the same or similar recipes, I’ve always found that DeGroff’s recipes strike the right note for what I like and look for in cocktails, regardless of the recipe. I just see eye to eye with him a lot of the time, which makes his recipes a tremendous resource for me.
And so I turned to The Craft of the Cocktail and sure enough, DeGroff had a recipe for a Frozen Margarita that looked like it was worth trying. Here it is:
Frozen Margarita (DeGroff recipe)
2 oz tequila
1 oz triple sec
1 oz fresh lime juice
2 oz simple syrup
3/4 cup cracked ice.
Combine all the ingredients in a blender. Blend and pour into a large goblet rimmed with coarse salt.
Since quality ingredients make for quality cocktails, I used Cointreau in lieu of regular triple sec. And instead of cheap rail tequila, I used top shelf stuff – Partida Reposado, until that was gone, then Patron Silver. My simple syrup was a 1:1 formulation of water and sugar.
This is a killer Frozen Margarita. It’s light, crisp and you can enjoy the tequila in it. I could probably be fine with the simple syrup dialed back a touch, but I wasn’t so bothered by the sweetness as to change it in multiple batches. Best of all, this is a recipe that I can turn to on out summer days. Or, as noted above, most days from here on out in DC…
BrewDog, a small craft brewery based in Scotland, was told it would receive an honor for Bar Operator of the Year, but things went awry when mega company Diageo, which happened to be the awards’ main sponsor, found out just before the ceremony and demanded it be given the award instead. Diageo operates several major global brands, including Guinness, Johnnie Walker, Captain Morgan, Bailey’s, Tanqueray and Red Stripe.
After its staff allegedly made a scene, Diageo was handed the award trophy with BrewDog’s name clearly engraved on it.
There are many benchmarks on the way to becoming a cocktail geek. Do you drink your Martinis with a 2:1 ratio or more? Do you have a favorite 19th century bar man? Do you own more than four types of bitters? Is the Negroni one of your Desert Island Cocktails? Appreciation of bitter spirits and bitter cocktails is a hurdle that truly shows you’re on your way being a certifiable cocktail enthusiast.
The appreciation of potable bitters opens up a world for creativity and experimentation. While I don’t spend nearly as much time as I used to coming up with my own original cocktails, one of the areas where I’ve never stopped playing is with Negroni and Americano variations. Every new bitter spirit which graces our shores allows me to try out new variations on the classic base/bitter/fortified wine formulation.
Best of all, once you appreciate potable bitters, you find that many, many countries have their own favorites. This brings me to the Czech Republic and Becherovka. Josef Becher first began producing liquor in 1794 and with an English Dr. Frobrig developed the basic recipe for Becherovka in 1805. Becher finished refining the recipe in 1807 and began selling it, like many other potable bitters, as a cure for stomach ailments. Skip ahead 200 years and while Becherovka can settle an upset stomach like most other digestifs, it’s much more fun to enjoy in its own right.
Becherovka is 38% abv and comes in a striking green, flask-shaped bottle. It is a golden, straw color. On its nose are clove, anise, allspice and honey. Sipped neat, I get clove, bitter quinine, allspice, cinnamon, honey and pepper. It’s delightfully unique, but warm and familiar to anyone who likes potable bitters.
I haven’t played around with Becherovka enough yet to have a preferred recipe where it’s used in a Negroni or Americano variation. But most of the time if I am drinking something bitter, it’s either with club soda or tonic water. Not shockingly, Becherovka is so good with tonic that it has its own name, the Beton:
2 oz Becherovka
Top with Tonic Water (I used Fentimans)
Fill a Collins glass with ice. Add Becherovka and tonic. Garnish with a lemon wedge.
This is a fantastic tall drink. It’s very light and refreshing, with calming herbal qualities. As we head into summer, this is a great drink to keep in mind for afternoons in the sun, by a pool or the grill. It will keep you cool and will also speak to your worldly character as an enlightened cocktail enthusiast.
Disclosure: This post was made possible because I received a free bottle of Becherovka for the purposes of sample and review.
I’ll hopefully be traveling to New Zealand at the end of this year or early next, so I’m trying to become more familiar with New Zealand wines. I recently tasted the Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc 2011. Stoneleigh is in the northern Marlborough region and has fairly good availability around the United States.
The 2011 Sauvignon Blanc is almost clear with light yellow hints. On the nose is strawberry, honey, hay and green apple.
The first impression is of tart apple, with a lot of minerality and touches of passion fruit. It finishes with a sweet tanginess and good mouthfeel.
The Sauvignon Blanc is crisp to the point of light effervescence. It’s a touch sour, but otherwise has good balance with interesting tropical notes.
Depending on where you are, this wine retails for $15-20. At this price point it’s a very good deal. It’s pretty much what I look for in a Sauvignon Blanc, with many layers and notes that you just can’t find in most wines that are at the lower end of its price range. I liked it so much that I’m actually going to be serving it at my wedding later this month, so if that doesn’t work as a positive review, I’m not sure what will.
Disclosure: This post was made possible because I received a free bottles of Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc for the purposes of sample and review.
A very cool mini-documentary on The Bon Vivants, a San Francisco based bartending, bitters-making, and bar consulting team. I met these guys a couple years ago when AGAINN opened in DC – they had set up the cocktail program there.
The documentary is a series on hipsters. Obviously there’s a lot of the craft cocktail culture which is perceived as part of hipster-dom. I have a negative reaction to the term hipster and while there are certainly hipster bartenders, those I’ve encountered suck. Just because the cultural side of the craft cocktail movement looks similar to a lot of hipsters – tattoos, mustaches, rolled sleeves, etc – doesn’t mean that it lacks the authenticity that is usually associated with hipsters. But people will describe themselves as they see fit. Nothing in the film tells me why The Bon Vivants are hipsters, only that these guys love bartending and sharing good living with their customers and guests. But again, it’s just a question of what connotations the word hipster bring to your mind…
Originally posted at PRZman.com
Look we all know St Patrick’s Day is a day to be filled with Guinness and Irish Whiskey, perhaps with a few pints of Harp or Magner’s thrown in to lighten things up. If there was ever a holiday that had the standard drinks well set, it’s Saint Patty’s Day. Don’t get me wrong, the Irish make great beer and even better whiskey. But it’s my job to tell you things you don’t already know.
Last year I showcased the St. Columb’s Rill, a contemporary creation by Phillip Ward in NYC. This year I’m going to share another Irish whiskey based cocktail which has roots in the legendary Savoy Cocktail Book, but has been improved upon recently by Erik Ellestad of San Francisco. It’s a rich, powerful, smokey cocktail that doesn’t hide the whiskey.
Tipperary Cocktail No. 3
(by Erik Ellestad)
- 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
- 1/2 ounce Green Chartreuse
- 1 oz Single Malt Irish whiskey
- 1/4 oz Single Malt Scotch whisky
Stir over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Ellestad changed the Tipperary Cocktail No. 1 by increasing the amount of Irish whiskey and adding in a small amount of Scotch whisky to provide greater depth of flavor. The brands he used were Bushmill’s 10 Year Single Malt and Gordon & MacPhail Highland Park 8 Year. If you don’t have those handy, you can try with a strong, rich Irish single malt and a not too peat heavy Scotch single malt.
Or you can just stick your Guinness and Jameson!
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