Elsewhere in the Liquiverse...

"Her early leaf's a flower."--Robert Frost

  • Creme Yvette sold out within its first 48 hours on the shelves at Astor Wine & Spirits. The historic berry and botanical liqueur is a lush modifier, as I recently experienced with an exquisite Aviation at new cocktail den Dram in Williamsburg -- I'm not kidding when I say hints of blackberry, cassis, framboise, violet petals and orange peel made the gin sing on mountain high. Released as a limited early launch, the first full shipment will be coming from France at an as-yet-announced later date. If you are lucky enough to have tried it, please leave comments!
  • In addition to Dram, recent bar openings include Midtown retreats Empire Room, Hospitality Holding's swanky cocktail lounge on the ground level of the Empire State Building, and La Biblioteca, a swanky tequila library at Zengo--although I've heard the latter is still waiting for their swanky liquor license.
  • It's currently Tartan Week in NYC, which means there are kilted men on the loose and drams of single malt whisky everywhere you turn--in other words, this is kind of the best week ever. Be sure to check out the Tartan Day Parade, this Saturday April 10. I'll have some recaps for you on this, trust...
  • Amateurs such as myself have a reason to break out the jiggers and shakers beyond entertaining ourselves by entering Louis 649's "Anyone Can Be a Mixologist" contest. Running now through April 18, non-working bartenders are invited to submit recipes using sponsored base ingredients. The live throwdown between 10 semi-finalists is April 21, and the winner gets their drink on the spring cocktail menu, a subscription to Imbibe and a $100 bar tab at Louis -- game on! Click here for the rules, newbie.
  • Oh, and you probably heard this already, but Julie Reiner and her partners at Clover Club have purchased the Tailor space and are planning something somewhat tropical.
  • Meanwhile, Allen & Delancey, at one point featuring a cocktail menu by Alex Day, quietly bit the dust.

Breaking: Jane Ballroom to Reopen Super Soon! For Reals!

Back in November, I broke the news that the Jane Hotel's Ballroom was reopening after being shut down in October due to neighbor complaints and pesky legal issues--turned out, just the Lobby Bar was able to reopen at that time. Now, my trusty sources tell me that Sean MacPherson's Ballroom is guaranteed to be back in business by Monday, March 1st in early March. Reportedly, the Ballroom has undergone renovations to ensure that it is 100 percent up to city code. You heard it here!

New Year's Eve in NYC is for Cocktail Lovers

"New Year's Day:  Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions.  Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual."--Mark Twain

How was your 2009? Mine was half crap, half amazing. I'm ok with that--discomfort breeds growth, and let's just say I had a lot of growth over the past decade. I'll be ringing in New Year's Eve 2010 with a Moroccan-inspired dinner and cocktail party at home with friends, followed by a few rounds at some of these cocktailian fêtes for a tip of the arm or two (or three):

  • What's a new decade without a pre-party? Swing in 2010 a night early with "The Salon" at The Players Club featuring guest bartenders Eryn Reece (Rye House, Louis 649) and Loungerati's Fredo Ceraso as well as free Dewar's cocktails to the first 125 paying guests. Entertainment includes George Gee's Jump, Jivin' Wailers (10-piece band); Gelber and Manning vaudeville; burlesque tap dancing by Helen Pontani; burlesque by Pandora; and DJ Rikomatic. Tickets are $25 cash at the door. 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.
  • Death & Co. is not only celebrating the New Year but also its three-year anniversary. Tickets are $125 per person (not including tax and tip) and include cocktails, champagne toast, bites, and dessert. 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. RSVP: nicole@deathandcompany.com (Tickets are almost gone!)
  • Lexington Bar & Books is hosting an exclusive New Year's bash with a midnight champagne toast, hors d'oeuvres, and party favors for all. Plus you get to light up cigars inside, if that's your thing. Tickets are $25 in advance; $30 at the door. RSVP: (212) 717-3902. Proper attire requested. 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.
  • Louis 649 is hosting a "No Bullsh*t" New Year's Eve with no cover, no doorman, no tickets, no pre-fixe--just bring your smiling faces. 8 p.m. to 7 a.m.
  • The Summit Bar is throwing two parties in one--a "Disco 2010" party from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. with DJ Kimiko, followed by a bar industry party from 3 a.m. to 8 a.m. with DJ D Sol. Head mixologist Greg Seider will be whipping up a spiced cranberry champagne drink and a New Year's punch. No cover, drinks are pay-as-you-go, and you can bring non-industry friends. RSVP: Hamid@thesummitbar.net

Also, if you're looking for food with your drink on New Year's, here's some restaurant suggestions. Cheers!

Dizzy Recap: The Dizzy Fizz Holiday Puncheon!

“If you'd know when you've enough - Of the punch and the claret cup - It's time to quit the blessed stuff - When you fall down and can't get up”--Unknown

Blessed stuff indeed, and thanks to all who made The Dizzy Fizz Holiday Puncheon an unforgettable evening!

On Sunday December 20, 2009, I was pleased as punch to ring in the holidays in style with a plaid-fashioned punch party at The Summit Bar, 133 Avenue C. This invite-only event gathered more than 100 of the city’s top mixologists and bar industry professionals, cocktail bloggers, lovely friends, as well as some internationally-recognized master mixologists. The Puncheon not only celebrated the holiday season, but was also  my way of toasting the six-month mark for TheDizzyFizz.com as I approached 20,000 views--thanks for your support!

The Puncheon, named for the speakeasy that preceded the '21' Club some 80 years ago, featured seven punches created by members of the USBGNY (United States Bartending Guild of New York), LUPECNYC (NYC Chapter of the Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails), and The Summit Bar’s staff. Punches featured sponsored ingredients including: Plymouth Gin, Bols Genever, Ron Zacapa 23 Aged Rum, Bulleit Bourbon, Partida Tequila, Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky, 10 Cane Rum, Martini & Rossi Prosecco, Gran Marnier Liqueur, Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur, Benedictine Liqueur, Chartreuse, and Averna Sambuca Agrumi.

Author/illustrator Jill DeGroff, and her husband, master mixologist Dale “King Cocktail” DeGroff, were featured guests. Jill DeGroff signed copies of her new book, “Lush Life: Portraits from Behind the Bar,” for party guests, courtesy of Chartreuse. Brian Van Flandern, a Michelin three-star mixologist, consultant to Chef Thomas Keller of Per Se, and author of “Vintage Cocktails,” and John Myers, cocktail historian, mixologist, and author of the upcoming "What Would Jesus Drink: Cocktails for the Second Coming" were also in attendance.

LUPEC bartender Jane Elkins’ punch, “The Redhead,” won the most applause and bragging rights as the crowd favorite. The punch included sage-infused Barenjager Honey Liqueur, Yamazaki 12 Year Whisky, Bulleit Bourbon, rooibos tea, ginger syrup, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, and Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters.

For the complete list of recipes, see the "Events" page. I can't thank the participating bartenders enough: Greg Seider of The Summit Bar, Frank Cisneros of Bar Celona and Prime Meats (USBGNY), John Pomeroy of The Hideout (USBGNY), Jane Elkins of Rye House (LUPEC), Lynnette Marrero of Rye House (LUPEC), Elayne Duke, mixologist for Diageo (LUPEC), Kelley Slagle of Hearth (LUPEC), and Katie Darling of White Star (LUPEC).

Special thanks to Jill and Dale DeGroff for driving through the snow to make the event, to Katie Darling and Tal Nadari of Bols Genever for letting us use their gorgeous punch bowls, to Lush Life Productions for their amazing photography (see the full reel here!) and for providing the yummy cheese and fruit platters, to Hamid Rashidzada of The Summit Bar for organizing an extremely professional staff, to my lovely door host, Chaya Wilkins, and to everyone who made it out on a cold Sunday night--I know you all could have just stayed home in your PJs. Thanks for getting punched in the mouth with me, let's do it again soon!

(Click on the photos to enlarge:)

Best Bar to Get You Through the Holidays: Louis 649

If you're in need of a respite from the nightmare that is holiday shopping in NYC (hands numb from the cold, double-fisted with shopping bags, bumping into throngs of dazed consumers), make your way through the charming boutiques of the East Village to East 9th Street and Avenue C, where cocktail bar Louis 649's welcoming atmosphere and vast cocktail menu should warm you up.

During a season that is increasingly about spending money, Louis 649 understands the value of free. Every Tuesday night from 7 to 9 p.m., the bar opens its doors for imbibers looking to sample fine, free booze doled out for its Tuesday Night Tastings. Sponsored by a different brand of liquor (or wine or beer) each week, these tastings are essentially seminars. The tastings are especially popular among local bartenders who want to improve their palates and spirits knowledge, even though it’s their night off.

“Some of the leading bartenders in our area come to hear our speakers,” said Gianfranco Verga, general manager at Louis 649. “We've built relationships with these great producers and wanted to give our community the chance to benefit from them.”

As if that weren't generous enough, Louis 649 is teaming up with Time Out magazine to offer a special drink deal tonight only--the "Sherry Pie" (sherry, rum, maraschino liqueur, honey syrup, cream, and cinnamon) is $8 tonight instead of $12. Also, the bar now offers food from local purveyors, including cheese from Saxelby Cheese Mongers, charcuterie from The Brooklyn Larder, and empanadas from Barnyard--all perfect for a quick bite before re-entering the madness of the season.

Louis 649, 649 E. 9th St., (212)673-1190.

Dizzy Recap: Amarula Cream at Esquire SoHo Penthouse

Nov3 032 Bachelors and cream liqueur might not seem a likely match, but earlier this week, Amarula Cream, Esquire Magazine, and mixologist Alex Ott proved otherwise. Amarula Cream, a South African liqueur made with the fruit of the Marula tree, held a cocktail bash to celebrate its sponsorship of the recently unveiled 2009 Esquire "Ultimate Bachelor Pad" at the SoHo Mews. "Pad" is truly an understatement--this sprawling, block-sized penthouse styled by a dozen top designers is filled with impossibly cool, impossibly pricey decor. I could go on and on about the chic interior (digitally-enhanced billiards table, a $40,000 leather "chopper chair" in the Diesel-sponsored music studio, a luxurious Hugo Boss-sponsored master bedroom with views of the Empire State Building), but I'll leave that to the design bloggers.

To kick off the evening, Alex demonstrated how he created fresh-ingredient cocktails that would bring out Amarula's refreshing fruit flavors. The marula fruit has a guava-like tropical essence, giving Amarula an exotic aftertaste. Alex's most impressive drink was a revelation of masculine flavors--the "Tobacco Vanilla" involved tobacco-infused liquified honey, sandalwood syrup (sandalwood powder-infused simple syrup), Amarula, light rum, and lime juice.

Alex's instructions for making the tobacco-infused liquified honey: dissolve two parts of Manuka honey or acacia honey in one part of hot water, stir until dissolved, and let cool. Store honey in a refrigerator. Burn organic tobacco and guide it through a punctured straw through the honey solution for about one minute.

Other cocktails served included the "Amarula & Eve" (Amarula, citrus vodka, lychee juice, and ruby red grapefruit juice), "Green Tea Wonder" (Amarula, mango nectar, gunpowder green tea, and lemon juice), and the "Pink Elephant" (Amarula, chocolate liqueur, merlot, raspberry puree, heavy cream, sugar, and a garnish of hickory smoke). Alex showed us how to make a quick whipped cream by simply shaking heavy cream and sugar in a cocktail shaker. To make the hickory smoke garnish, Alex lit a piece of wood under an inverted funnel, while his assistant siphoned the smoke into a plastic squueze bottle, thus capturing the smoke. When squeezed over the drink, the whipped cream absorbed the smoke flavor, delivering a campfire effect.

Between the penthouse views, pool table antics, and indulgent cocktails, this was one party that was difficult to leave. Fortunately, I will be back at the Mews for a Woodfords Reserve event next week!

Dizzy Recap: Chartreuse/LUPEC Tweetup & Beam Luxury Spirits Launch

beam1 November in the NYC cocktail circuit got off to a good start this week, with Monday's Chartreuse/LUPEC NYC (Ladies United for the Protection of Endangered Cocktails) tweetup at Astor Centor and Beam Spirits Luxury tasting at the penthouse of the Hotel on Rivington. Although I was drastically late to the Chartreuse/LUPEC party and missed out on meeting Chartreuse President Jean Marc Roget, I did get to sample four delicious chartreuse cocktails--a champagne cocktail with Green Chartreuse, Yellow Chartreuse, grapefruit juice, and champagne; a Hendrick's Gin and chartreuse cocktail with sage; a cognac cocktail with chartreuse, lemon juice, and bitters; and "The Equinox:" Yellow Chartreuse, Famous Grouse Whisky, cloves, lemon juice, and simple syrup. If you don't know by now, Chartreuse is an herbal liqueur created by the Carthusian monks in 1605. Both the yellow and green varieties each contain 130 botanicals, and only three monks hold the secret to the recipe. Forgetting how potent Chartreuse is--the yellow is 86 proof while the green is 110 proof--I probably should have slowed my roll before jetting to the Beam event, alas, the drinks were just too good to put down.

Contemporary Cocktails and Handcrafted PR joined forces to throw a spirited bash at the Hotel on Rivington penthouse to celebrate Beam's luxury line featuring Laphroaig Single Malt Whisky, Ri(1) Rye Whiskey, Courvoisier Exclusif Cognac, and El Tesoro Tequila. The three-story, glass-enclosed space was full of off-duty bartenderati, and drinks included the "Brooklyn Cocktail:" Ri(1) whiskey, maraschino liqueur, and Italian vermouth; "Original Sazerac:" Courvoisier Exclusif, absinthe rinse, sugar cube, and Peychaud's bitters; and "Bobby Burns:" Laphroaig scotch, Punt e Mes Vermouth, Benedictine liqueur, dry vermouth, and Angostura bitters. There was also a gold body-painted lass serving a Laphroaig-laced punch, which was smoky and sweet. I wouldn't necessarily add peaty Islay scotch to my holiday punch--I did not find the combination seamless--but for the acquired palate, this was a memorable treat. Thanks to all for a great night!

CLARIFICATION: Jane Lobby Bar Reopened; Ballroom 2-3 Weeks Out

My sincere apologies for having jumped the gun, but the Jane Ballroom is not open just yet--the Jane's Lobby Bar, after a month-long closure, opened Monday, while the ballroom will reopen in two or three weeks. I guess the neighbors can rejoice in silence a little longer. Rest assured that I'll be one of the first to know when the ballroom is back in full swing. Until then, show the Jane staff some love and get your Pimm's Cup fix at the front bar.

Breaking News: The Jane Ballroom to reopen TONIGHT!

janeballroom That's right, I have the inside dish from a reliable source that The Jane Ballroom will reopen tonight! Following last month's outcry from crotchety neighbors, a variety of city authorities temporarily shut down the ballroom over some pesky violations (outdated certificate of occupancy, sprinklers not up to code, etc.), and rumors spread that the posh, celebrity-approved hotel cocktail lounge might not reopen for weeks. Well, never underestimate the operation management skills of a Sean MacPherson-owned hotel--get dressed and back in line, kids.

Saloon Stakeouts: Bar Celona and Summit Bar

Recession schmecession, it's fall in New York and that means bar openings, people! Not since June, which saw the openings of Fort Defiance and Ward III, has there been so many new cocktail menus and plush seating to try out. While I have plans to hit up Highlands, Henry Public, and the bars at Crosby Street Hotel and Ace Hotel (plus a brand-spanking new bar you probably haven't heard about yet), there are two joints where I recently caught a whiff of new bar smell, Bar Celona in Williamsburg and Summit Bar in Alphabet City. Both are lookers, both have savory-centric cocktails, and both are keepers, in my opinion.

Bar Celona, on South 4th Street between Bedford Avenue and Berry Street, is a swanky, noiresque enclave in a neighborhood full of grungy pubs and cafes. A Spanish tapas and cocktail lounge, the space is the vision of Cynthia Diaz, a fashionista who grew up in the restaurant industry. The Hollywood Regency-style decor, which Diaz designed with her mother, is simply stunning--gold lion wall decals, leopard-print salon seating, glass-enclosed fireplace--but what's really impressive is the cocktail menu created by the Tippling Bros.

Tad Carducci and Paul Tanguay have put together a slew of sweet and savory drinks using Spanish ingredients--expect the menu to expand soon, according to bartender Frank Cisneros. The cocktail menu is divided into three categories: "G y Ts" (variations on gin and tonics, Spain's most popular drink), "Gastros" (featuring savory culinary flavors), and "Variedades" (variety of ingredients).

I started off with the "Paellarinha" ($11), a "gastro" drink that included Leblon cachaca, fino sherry, red bell pepper/saffron syrup, and lemon juice. I'm usually not a fan of bell peppers, but this drink was incredibly refreshing and the paella-inspired flavors made it a justifiable appetizer. Next, Frank offered me a special off-menu cocktail, a "Burnt Caipirinha." He torched some demerara sugar with an alcohol-filled atomizer before muddling in limes and adding Leblon. The drink had a nice toasted caramel flavor and the fire show was definitely a conversation piece. Lastly, while I nibbled on dates stuffed with Mahon cheese and wrapped in Serrano ham, I sipped down a "Sea Monkey." One of the gin and tonics, this cocktail called for Plymouth Gin, celery/apple juice, lemon juice, Anise del Mono, Fever Tree tonic water, and a fennel salt rim. Since I am a fan of all things celery, I quickly made it disappear. It was hard to choose from this menu--all of the drinks sound amazing. Next time, I think I'll try the "Missionary's Position" (for a change, wink, wink), with reposado tequila, Rioja pear syrup, falernum, and ginger. Take note that Bar Celona is closed on Mondays.

Summit Bar, on Avenue C between 8th and 9th Streets, also features plush seating and chandeliers, but the brick wall interior and laid-back East Village vibe offers a balance that has attracted a sizable following (and even a mention in The New York Times). Co-owned by Greg Seider, who created the cocktail menu at Minetta Tavern, Summit features a mix of "Classic" cocktails (Tom Collins, French 75, Vesper, Dark and Stormy, Daiquiri) and "Alchemist" drinks which exhibit Seider's culinary-inspired mixology skills. I had a "Shu Jam Fizz" ($12), a combination of DH Krahn Gin, apricot jam, fennel-infused syrup, peach bitters, lemon juice, and club soda. The apricot jam married perfectly with the gin and anise flavors of the fennel and was not cloyingly sweet.

I wish I could have stayed for more drinks at Summit Bar, like "The Gov'ner"--Yamazaki 12 year whisky, toasted cardamom-infused agave syrup, Japanese yuzu, and fresh orange juice. I did, however, get to scope the cabana-style back patio, which will be a neighborhood destination once the mercury reverses. Summit also offers a small menu of charcuterie, with more options coming soon.

Sip & Tell: Stephen Yorsz of Maker's Mark

Steve Yorsz loves his job. [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."

"West Side" at The Jane Hotel (Maker's Mark, Amaro, honey liqueur)

Dizzy Recap: Nirvino & Bols Genever

Bols Genever, Dutch grain spirit. All photos by Leo Borovskiy of Lush Life Productions. Earlier this week, Nirvino, a social networking site (and mobile application) that encourages users to recommend and review drinks, hosted a Bols Genever cocktail party at Beekman Bar & Books. Created in Holland during the 16th century, Genever is the original recipe for gin, although the white spirit tastes very different from the London Dry style of gin. Made with maltwine (distilled from corn, rye, and wheat), and various botanicals (including ginger, coriander, and, of course, juniper berries), Bols Genever has a rich, slightly floral, malty flavor and is very smooth and neutral. Relaunched last year, the spirit has been a hit with NYC mixologists and won the Best New Spirit award at this summer's Tales of the Cocktail. It's especially relevant to the classic cocktail revolution since Genever was one of four main ingredients called for in many cocktails created by the pioneer of American bartending, Jerry Thomas.

For the Nirvino event, Ben Scorah, mixologist and managing partner of Bar & Books, mixed cocktails that would normally feature scotch whisky and used the Bols Genever instead. Guests were encouraged to sample three different concoctions--a Green Apple-Infused Old Fashioned, a Dutch Blood & Sand, and a Holland Razorblade (Bols Genever, lemon juice, simple syrup, and cayenne pepper).  A laptop was connected to a large flatscreen TV that scrolled live reviews by Nirvino users of the cocktails, so everyone could see that the Blood & Sand was clearly the crowd favorite.  Tal Nadari and Katie Darling of Lucas Bols Spirits were on hand to share more information about Bols Genever, and at the end of the event, two Nirvino users were chosen at random to win bottles of Bols Genever and cocktail shakers. Tomas Delos Reyes, the NYC representative for Nirvino, says these cocktail events will be happening monthly, so if you want to join in, just sign up as a member at Nirvino.com.

Bols Genever is a crowd-pleaser.

Tomas Delos Reyes of Nirvino and Tal Nadari of Bols.

Ben Scorah's Green Apple-Infused Old Fashioned.

Back From Va-Cain-tion

caincove New York is a funny place. When I first moved here five years ago, I had a hard time landing a steady writing job despite having five years of newspaper experience. Fast-forward and, following a stint as a nightlife editor, I know a lot more people in both the media and liquor industries than I ever could have imagined.

I just attended the 2-year anniversary of Cain at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas, a balmy, seductive affair that included lots of time in the pool and ocean and a few too many rum drinks. I never would have expected to be mingling in a cabana with some of NYC nightlife's most influential people, but that is just the sort of crazy opportunity that comes with city life. Apparently, Carmen Electra, Miss USA, and Miss Universe were in attendance, but I was snorkeling while they made their appearance—and frankly, I didn't care. If you ever get the chance to travel to Atlantis, be sure to check out Cain at the Cove—they have the best pina coladas.