- Master chefs and mixologists are flocking to Astor Center this weekend to explore all things olfactory and tongue-tingling for a two-day conference, The Alchemy of Taste and Smell. The event kicks off at 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 12, with a session on the use of aroma in cocktails (tickets are $55) led by Pegu Club owner Audrey Saunders and Dave Arnold, Director of Culinary Technology for the French Culinary Institute. At 7:30 p.m. Friday, Astor Center flings open the doors for an Opening Night Party (tickets are $75), featuring creative cocktails by Dave and Audrey, as well as hor d'oeuvres by chefs David Chang, Alexander Talbot, Nils Noren and Bill Corbett. Interactive stations will also include dishes by chef Daniel Patterson (Coi, San Francisco) and essential oils presented by perfumer Mandy Aftel. See the Astor Center website for the full calendar of events, which includes sessions led by Wylie Dufresne, Harold McGee and Johnny Iuzzini and culminates with a multiple-course all-star dinner the night of Saturday, Nov. 13 (tickets are $300).
- On Wednesday, Nov. 17, Allen Katz of Slow Food NYC is leading a workshop on "Greenmarket Mixology for Holiday Cocktails." Learn how to incorporate farm-fresh ingredients such as herbs and maple syrup into your drinks. The session is from 6 to 8 p.m. at Union Square Wine & Spirits (tickets are $45).
- And if you haven't purchased your ticket yet for the third annual Repeal Day Ball on Saturday, Dec. 4, in Washington, D.C., you'd better get on that before the big event sells out. This year, the black tie soiree will be held at the Maison Biltmore in Adams Morgan and will feature themed rooms representing significant eras in cocktail history: 1800s (punches), 1900s (pre-Prohibition), 1920s (Prohibition), 1940s (tiki), 1960s (Mad Men), 1980s (inspired by Cocktail) and "The Future," along with a main ball room where jazz band The Red Hot Rhythm Chiefs will play. Tickets are $100 (or $150 for VIP hors d'oeurves and afterparty), with proceeds going to the D.C. Craft Bartenders Guild and the Museum of the American Cocktail. At the ball, enjoy cocktail creations from D.C. favorites like Gina Chersevani, Derek Brown, Tom Brown, Chantal Tseng, Owen Thomson, Dan Searing, and Adam Bernbach, to name a few, along with special guests--bartending legends Dale DeGroff from New York, Chris McMillian from New Orleans, John Hogan from Annapolis, and Jeffrey Morgenthaler from Portland, as well as nationally-renowned cocktail historian and writer David Wondrich and Tiki expert Jeff "Beachbum" Berry.
- BarSmarts Wired is now open for registration through March 31. Created by Beverage Alcohol Resource and Pernod Ricard USA, the online bartender training program is available for two-month intervals twice a year. While BarSmarts Advanced is invitation-only, the Wired version is open to any bar enthusiast 21 and older. The $45 course fee includes a messenger bag packed with essential bar tools, shipped to you whether you pass the course or not.
- For reasons yet unknown, Audrey Saunders has left her helm at the Tar Pit in L.A. She told The New York Times that she and the other bar owners disagreed over the swanky retro bar's promotion: "It’s not our style to promote our beverage program through cable programs, etc — and that became a stumbling block for us."
- New York sales of Fernet Branca jumped 50 percent in 2009, undoubtedly thanks to NYC's cocktail community--but the saturation here still doesn't match San Francisco, which drinks more than half of the Fernet sold in the entire U.S.!
- Save the dates for the first-ever Ultimate Beverage Challenge series, starting with the Ultimate Spirits Challenge at Astor Center on March 1-3, followed by the Ultimate Cocktail Challenge on April 12-14. For the cocktail challenge, spirit and wine categories will be meticulously mixed in classic cocktails to determine which ones work best, such as the best gin in a dry martini. The judging panel will include founder F. Paul Pacult, Jacques Bezuidenhout, Dale DeGroff, Steve Olson, Julie Reiner, Audrey Saunders, Jim Meehan, Doug Frost, Andy Seymour, David Wondrich and more.
- Liquor industry giant Diageo is leading efforts to stop New York grocery stores from selling wine, as proposed in a current bill from Gov. Paterson.
- Today is National Margarita Day! I like mine spicy:
Spicy Cucumber Margarita by Kara Newman, author of "Spice & Ice":
1/2 small cucumber, peeled and cubed 1 slice jalapeno pepper, minced 1 ounce reposado tequila 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice 1/2 ounce Cointreau or Grand Marnier Ice 1 small jalapeno or cucumber or lime wheel for garnish
In a shaker, muddle the cucumber and jalapeno. Add all liquid ingredients, and fill halfway with ice. Shake well, for at least 30 seconds or more, then strain twice into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the small chili pepper or cucumber or lime wheel.
- Those Londoners know what's up--next month, look for a giant punch bowl big enough to paddle a boat in at 33 Portland Place. The winning punch recipe will soon be announced by artists Bompas & Parr, collaborating with Courvoisier.
- More good news for LA's cocktail scene--which is yet to be "fetishized," according to Audrey Saunders, who will help open The Tar Pit there on Dec. 7.
- Death & Co. rolled out a new menu last night. Details to come...
- Feeling a November chill? Warm up by checking out AMountainofCrushedIce's best-of tiki drinks from the days of Don the Beachcomber.
- Traveling bartenders will soon be able to lug their tools in a luxury leather bar bag designed by Jim Meehan of PDT for leather crafters Moore & Giles. Good thing bartenders make bank because these puppies are going for $740 a pop.
- Apple brandy is the apple of the bartender's eye these days, according to the SF Chronicle. Rickhouse's "Scottish Breakfast" with Germain-Robin Apple Brandy and Glenrothes Select Reserve sounds like a winner!
[Sip & Tell features barstool interviews with spirits industry professionals.]
Maker's Mark, that trusty Kentucky bourbon, has not changed one damn bit since the Samuels family reinvented their recipe in 1953. Red winter wheat in the mash, as opposed to rye, gives the bourbon a smooth balance, and the brand is known for producing small batches aged in charred oak barrels for five to seven years, producing a subtly sweet caramel flavor. It's also considered a whisky (instead of a "whiskey") due to the brand's Scottish heritage.
Here in New York City, the brand is having an interesting moment as more and more bars are using brown spirits to create classic cocktails like the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan. Maker's Mark, most popularly ordered on the rocks, is available at just about every bar in the city, from dirty dive to upscale lounge. For decades, ordering a bourbon or whisky neat or on the rocks was an act of rebellion against the candy cocktails of the Cosmo era, but now that fresh-ingredient cocktails and pre-Prohibition cocktails are in vogue, ordering straight bourbon doesn't seem as sophisticated. (Of course, most people who order bourbon straight don't care what anyone thinks, anyway.)
When it comes to using bourbon in cocktails, some mixologists prefer more super-premium, small-batch bourbons, or rye whiskey, which has come back in style, while Maker's Mark's is one of the top-selling whiskys (behind Jack Daniels and Jim Beam). NYC Maker's Mark Distillery Diplomat Stephen Yorsz says crafty cocktailians who roll their eyes at Maker's are missing out. "Don't confuse commercial success with lack of quality," he said.
Stephen admits he has a pretty "cheddar" job--touting Maker's Mark is not a hard sell--after all, it's an American icon with its red wax seal and loyal fan base. Audrey Saunders of Pegu Club calls Maker's Mark "incredible bourbon that created and defined the premium bourbon category."
Given Stephen's background as a bartender for hotspots such as Home, Guesthouse, and STK, it's not surprising that he wants to bring Maker's into trendier enclaves like Simyone Lounge (formerly Lotus). While Stephen credits the cocktail renaissance with encouraging more people to break out of their vodka comfort zone and try brown spirits, he doesn't see why bourbon can't move from places like Employees Only into the nightlife scene as well, where Grey Goose and Patron still rule. At the same time, he takes pride in the brand's history as a no-nonsense spirit.
"Maker's Mark is premium, but not exclusive," he said. "Anyone from Joe Schmo to Heidi Klum will drink it because they like it. And that's the beauty of it--it's a common thread--the camaraderie over the one product."
I just received the press release announcing the schedule for The Manhattan Cocktail Classic:
NEW YORK, August 20, 2009—The Manhattan Cocktail Classic, New York City’s first-ever multi-day celebration of all things cocktail-related, today announced the details of its Fall Preview seminar series, which will take place during the day on October 3-4, 2009, at Astor Center in New York City. The seminars will be led by members of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic Advisory Board, which includes legendary mixologists, cocktail historians, spirits critics and writers, and speak-easy impresarios. Each seminar will be individually ticketed for $50, available through the website at www.manhattancocktailclassic.com beginning on September 7, 2009.
“I am very excited about the topics we have lined up for the Fall Preview,” said Lesley Townsend, Founder and Director of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic. “It’s an unbelievable honor to have our Advisory Board members kicking off our event in this regard. Our hope is that this series will inspire the rest of the spirits and cocktail community to come forth with their own ideas for presentations for the first annual event in May of 2010.”
The seminar schedule is as follows:
Saturday, October 3, 2009
“Have Cocktail Shaker, Will Travel” with Charlotte Voisey & Simon Ford: Once the last legal cocktail was served on the eve of Prohibition in New York City, things would never be the same again. ‘Have cocktail shaker, will travel’ was the mindset of many a passionate barkeep in the 1920s when their craftsmanship turned criminal. Join Charlotte Voisey, Simon Ford, and other assorted friends for a jovial discussion on how New York has been influencing cocktail culture around the world for many years. Liquid refreshments will be served.
“Cocktails for Your Home Cocktail Party” with Sasha Petraske: Famed (and oft-elusive) owner and proprietor of Milk and Honey, Sasha Petraske will demonstrate the basics of creating cocktails in the home. He will go over how to set up and stock home bars of varying degrees of seriousness, as well as cover different scenarios of cocktail entertaining – from temporarily taking over your friend’s kitchen for a house party, to grabbing the reins at a fully-equipped bar. And of course, Sasha will teach you how to prepare some basic, ever-pleasing libations for these occasions. Participants will leave armed with a no-fail recipe list and a short set of directions for preparing basic cocktails with block ice and fresh juices.
“The Agave Session: The Magical Elixirs of Mexico” with Steve Olson and Special Guests: There is a heritage and culture associated with Tequila and Mezcal that dates back well over a thousand years, when the agave plant – also known as the maguey – was utilized by Mexico’s native peoples for virtually everything: from food and drink, to sugar, to shoes, soap, building supplies, and even medicine. Join us for an exciting tasting of this exotic elixir, each by artisan producers, as we pay homage to the heritage, history and culture of Mexico’s national spirit. It is also likely that agave-based libations will be consumed.
“The Many Faces of Cognac & Armagnac” with Julie Reiner, Charlotte Voisey & F. Paul Pacult: This one-time-only, comprehensive seminar joins celebrated master mixologists Julie Reiner and Charlotte Voisey with America’s spirits guru F. Paul Pacult on an extraordinary excursion deep into France's legendary AOC grape brandies, Cognac and Armagnac. Participants will first be taken on a guided tour of tasting a half-dozen remarkable brandies to see how these distilled and oak-matured cousins compare and contrast. Then, they will be treated to a Cognac cocktail, made by Julie, and an Armagnac cocktail, made by Charlotte. A rare opportunity to spend 90 minutes with three of America's most engaging spirits and cocktail personalities.
“History of the Cocktail in New York, 1810-1920” with Dave Wondrich: Among all the classes of American mixed drinks—the Cobblers, Sours, Fizzes, Coolers, Juleps and all the rest—the Cocktail stands as first among equals. If there’s something about a quick jolt of ice-cold, mixed-up boozy deliciousness that’s essentially American, then it’s quintessentially New York. And indeed, while many other cities have made key contributions to the Cocktail’s development, none has done so much as to shape it as Gotham. This seminar will attempt to track the interventions the city’s mixologists made in the idea of the Cocktail during the 110-odd years between its first documented appearance here and Prohibition. Liquid exhibits will be served.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
“Audrey and Gary’s Unparalleled Gin Palaver” with Audrey Saunders & Gary Regan: Audrey Saunders, Libation Goddess from New York’s Pegu Club, and perhaps the bartender most responsible for the resurgence of gin in the 21st century, will join Gary “gaz” Regan, author of The Joy of Mixology (2003) and The Bartender’s Gin Compendium (Fall 2009), to present gin-based cocktails, old, new, borrowed, and, well, you get the picture. They will wax lyrical on all things juniper; they will pontificate endlessly about the attributes of the Martini and of the MarTEAni, and they will display the splendor of cocktails made with dry gin, genever, Plymouth gin, and a most peculiar Old Tom. It’s probable that Saunders and Regan will flirt shamelessly throughout the workshop. The throwing of rotting fruit or vegetables will not be permitted.
“Glasses & Tools: How Do You Choose the Right Glass for a Drink?” with Dale DeGroff: The choice of glass can mean the difference between a successful and elegant drink, or a glass of booze. In a commercial operation, the choice of glass can impact dramatically on the bottom line. At the home bar, the choice of glass can have an impact on the success of your cocktail party, and the well-being of your guests. Explore the classics with Dale DeGroff as he culls his glass collection to find the perfect glass for well-known classics and the tools to make them successfully.
“Call of the Rye” with Allen Katz: Ryes, Ryes my beloved, Meet me down by The Bowery. There will I give you my love. By history and culture, With song, per chance dance, A Savor to be kissed by kisses. O, my dear, come… Ryes at the day break. As the shadows enter over Astor. Awake. Inhale. O friends, drink, yea, drink abundantly, O, beloved.
“Sherry: The Cobbler and Beyond” with Andy Seymour: Sherry has long played an important role in the world of mixology and has emerged in this new age of the cocktail more popular than ever. Join Master Mixologist and U.S. Sherry Ambassador Andy Seymour for a fascinating look at one of the world’s most cocktail (and food) friendly wines. Taste five of the finest Sherry, representing its many styles, and sample cocktails that show off Sherry’s traditional side and what it is up to today. Come ready to shake, as Andy will lead the group in building their own version of the Sherry cobbler!
About the Manhattan Cocktail Classic:
The Manhattan Cocktail Classic is New York City’s first ever multi-day event celebrating the history, contemporary culture, and artful craft of the cocktail. Part festival, part fête, part conference, part cocktail party, the Manhattan Cocktail Classic brings together the unparalleled talents and opportunities of the bars, bartenders, and restaurants of our great city for two days of activities, both educational and celebratory in nature, championing the common ideals of authenticity, equality, sustainability, service, and pleasure. (There will be some drinking involved, too.) For additional information, kindly visit http://www.manhattancocktailclassic.com .
And there you have it!
It will still be a few days before I get the muddled recap on what went down at this year's Tales of the Cocktail. To get an idea of how big of an event this 5-day celebration of the cocktail in New Orleans is, here are some stats: 15,000 people, 288 recipes, 6,000 pounds of ice, 85 pounds of mint leaves, 40 pounds of super-fine sugar, 15 dozen eggs, 280 liters of lime juice, 350 liters of lemon juice... You get the idea.
One thing I can report for you is that New York fared very well at this year's Spirit Awards, honoring the most influential bars and people in the cocktail industry. And a special congratulations goes out to Jim Meehan of PDT, named the American Bartender of the Year. (Other nominees were Audrey Saunders of Pegu Club and Phil Ward of Death & Co. and Mayahuel.) At last year's awards, the winners were spread out across the world (although Milk & Honey won both Best Classic Cocktail Bar and World's Best Cocktail Bar), but this year, New York was on top. Clearly, New York is the destination for classic and quality cocktails. The winners that pertain to New York are highlighted in bold:
Best American Bar: Pegu Club, NY
Best Hotel Bar in the World: The Merchant Hotel Belfast
Best Cocktail Writing 2009: David Wondrich
Best New Product: Bols Genever
Best American Brand Ambassador: Simon Ford, Plymouth Gin
World's Best Drinks Selection: The Merchant Hotel Belfast
American Bartender of the Year: James Meehan, PDT, NY
Best New Cocktail/Bartending Book: Dale de Groff, The Essential Cocktail
World's Best Cocktail Menu - The Merchant Hotel Belfast
International Bartender of the Year: Tony Conigliaro, UK
World's Best New Cocktail Bar: Clover Club, NY
World's Best Cocktail Bar: PDT, NY
Tales of the Cocktails Helen David Life Achievement Award: Peter Dorelli, London
Source: Good Spirits News