- Casa Mezcal, a ground-level mezcal bar within a three-story property that will soon include a Oaxacan gallery and a basement-level bar/cinema, opened at 86 Orchard St. in early June. Featuring a wide variety of sipping mezcals, including some obscure varieties, the bar also offers a cocktail menu designed by Junior Merino. A Mexican food menu will be added as soon as the gas is turned on, until then complimentary bites include fried grasshoppers and pico de gallo. The mezcaleria is within stumbling distance of two of NYC's most rambunctious cocktail bars--Painkiller and The Randolph--creating a "Cocktailian Bermuda Triangle," if you dare.
- Legislation that could have a severe impact on NYC nightlife is on the table. Eater reports that State Senator Daniel Squadron has submitted a bill that would revoke a bar's liquor license if police receive six or more noise or disorder complaints within a 60-day period. This comes on the heels of a bill from Brooklyn Assemblywoman Joan Millman that would impose an 11 p.m. curfew on rooftop and backyard bars on weekends and 10 p.m. on weeknights, as reported in the Wall Street Journal. Let's hope both of these bills go nowhere--NYC nightlife generates renevue that the city can't afford to lose.
- Tribeca cocktail den Ward III celebrates its first anniversary this weekend, offering specially-priced cocktails, as reported by NY Barfly. Check out Hendrick's Gin drinks tonight and Maker's Mark tipples tomorrow night.
- Speaking of Maker's Mark, the Kentucky distillers will be launching their first new bourbon in 50 years, Maker's 46, next month. Check out blogger DrinkBoston.com's report from Louisville on how the special edition bourbon is made--the secret lies in the seared French oak staves. Retailing for $35, the 46 (named for the fact that it was simply the 46th recipe) will be a toasty addition to any Maker's lover's liquor cabinet.
- Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans is just around the corner--July 21-25, and the 2010 Spirited Awards nominees were recently announced. New York swept the awards last year, and based on the high number of talented bartenders and bars up for honors this year, the city could see another coup--good luck!
- Sam Mason, formerly chef at now-shuttered SoHo restaurant/cocktail den Tailor, has opened a no-frills dive bar, Lady Jay's, at 633 Grand St. in Williamsburg next to Bushwick Country Club. The bar, which Eater reports is across the street from his apartment, has neither fancy cocktails nor food--just whiskey, beer, shuffle bowling, a jukebox and standard hipster decor--antlers on the walls.
So really, this recap only reflects the past seven months of 2009 since I started this blog in May, but so much radness went down that I thought the time period deserved some pause--including one event I haven't even recapped until now because life and too many cocktails got in the way (it happens to the best of us).
- Junior Merino's Liquid Lab (November): Holy hole in a lotus root, if you have been to Junior's lab you have truly tasted the rainbow. Primarily for bartenders, this free, day-long experience at Junior's offices in the Bronx (sorry, no photos allowed) is a mix of mad cocktail science and blind tastings. On the day I attended, we tasted five different kinds of vodka, cachaca, rum, pisco, tequila, and mezcal, and we tasted everything twice. Tasting spirits twice (after lots of water and spitting) allowed my palate and brain to register more intense flavors. We then mixed cocktails using each type of spirit and pulled ingredients from Junior's seemingly endless supply of liquor, liqueurs, juices, syrups, bitters, fresh produce and herbs, garnishes, spices, salts--really anything you could imagine, it was there. Each cocktail we made included at least one sponsored ingredient--Combier Orange Liqueur, Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur, and Castries Peanut Rum. Being an amateur mixologist, this was a real treat for me, as was tasting the more experienced bartender's concoctions. My best drink (in my opinion) included: muddled pepquinos (tiny melons) and starfruit, habanero-infused Siembra Azul Tequila, Combier, The Liquid Chef Agave Nectar, lemon juice, and garnished with rock chives, starfruit, and The Liquid Chef Cactus & Lemongrass Salt on the rim. Some bartenders toyed with the liquid nitrogen, dry ice, and liquid smoke for more molecular experiments. A highlight for me was tasting the not-yet-released Creme Yvette, which offers a brilliant mix of berry and vanilla flavors. Another major highlight was the amazing lunch spread provided by Junior's wife, chef Heidi. If you are in the NYC area and are a working bartender, this is an opportunity not to be missed.
- World Cocktail Day (May): The day I got this blog up and running, and what a day it was! More than 20 of the country's top mixologists threw down at Pranna in celebration of the birthday of the cocktail.
- The Manhattan Cocktail Classic, Day 1 & Day 2 (October): Two days of expert sessions and tastings, followed by a blowout gala. This is one weekend that will probably be remembered as the event of the year for NYC cocktailians.
- WhiskyFest New York (November): Where I learned that there is no such thing as too much whisk(e)y. Why can't every day be WhiskyFest?
- 2nd Annual D.C. Repeal Day Ball (December): No better reason to put on a black-tie outfit than to celebrate the anniversary of Prohibition's end--and no better place to celebrate than the D.C. cocktail hub.
- The Dizzy Fizz Holiday Puncheon (December): C'mon, you know I had to put the puncheon on here! If you were there, you know; if you weren't, I'm sorry but you missed a damn fine time.
*Glaring omission: No, I was not at Tales of the Cocktail. Hopefully next year!
If you ever wanted proof of the clash between the crafty cocktail world and the superficial land of clubdom, it was at last week's New York Bar Show, an annual food and beverage trade show. Nonetheless, buzzing through aisles of drink samples and girls in bikinis at Jacob Javits Convention Center certainly isn't the worst way to spend an afternoon. I had hopes of bringing you some news of hot-off-the-presses, must-try spirits or fancy bar gadgets, but alas, I really didn't learn anything new. What I did absorb (besides several sippy cups of tequila, gin, pisco, absinthe, beer, and vodka) is that the mixology side of the bar business has a long way to go to educate mainstream consumers that it's worthy of as much attention as the pretty girls who pour your shots. Leading the cocktail teach-in at the Bar Show was the non-stop presentation by the New York chapter of the U.S. Bartender's Guild. When I strolled by, I found mixologist (and talented photographer) Elba S. Giron mixing the Joie de Veev cocktail, of all things, while mixologists Jonathan Pogash and Jason Littrell handed out information and chatted with passersby. Other highlights included: Mekhong Spirit of Thailand cocktails, Pisco Sours with Gran Sierpe, and Daiquiris with Don Q Rum courtesy of James Menite of Porter House. Workshop sessions (which I didn't attend) featured mixologists such as Gary Regan, Charlotte Voisey, Junior Merino, Tad Carducci, Brian Van Flandern, and Martin Miller's brand ambassador Jon Santer. Entertainment came in the form of ice luges, beer pong, Hustlers Club girls, and an inflatable bull (which was just for display, I think). Whether or not this show was the right place to spread the good word of fresh-ingredient cocktails or not, props must be given to the USBGNY for putting in the effort. I would love to see more of a cocktail culture presence next year, or perhaps a separate event will emerge. Check out this video of Jason Littrell at the Bar Show making a Southside using Bols Genever.