Friday, April 30, 2010

Long Island's LIV Vodka Gets in the Liqueur Game

The distilling scene in New York State just keeps growing and growing.

Long Island Spirits, the island's first craft distillery since the 1800s, and the maker of the well-thought-of LIV Vodka, has now released a line of three potato-based liqueurs called Sorbetta. (According to LIV, the only potato-based liqueurs sold in America.)

All three—lemon, orange and strawberry—have LIV vodka as their base, and use fresh fruit and pure cane sugar. The liqueurs have a simple flavor profile. They taste like what they are: neutral spirit infused with fruit, with no secondary flavor characteristics sneaking in. If you're familiar with limoncello, the lemon liqueur will be no mystery to your tastebuds. The orange is perhaps the most complex, with some of the tangy bitterness of the rind coming into play. The strawberry is the lightest. I'd give it a spritz of seltzer and a lime, or pour it over creamy vanilla ice cream. But serve any of them chilled or on the rocks on a hot summer day, and there will be little to complain about.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Gary Farrell Returns to Russian River Valley

For years there, Gary Ferrell was once of the golden names in Russian River Valley pinot noir, making juicy, sought-after wines prized by collectors and those fond of Parker-astic, big-ticket reds. Then he sold he winery in 2004 and cleared out.

Now he has returned with Alysian, his new "back to his roots" wine. Again, his stomping ground is the Russian River Valley, and again he's producing pinots. He's just released his initial 2007 vintage of Alysian, including two pinots. If Ferrell is going back to his roots, they dig into artistic ground remarkably similar to what he left behind at his big commercial winery. In other words, fans of the Farrell style won't be disappointed. The wines are alcoholic, fruity, fragrant and juice, the single-vineyard Floodgate Pinot Noir 2007 (only 440 cases) slightly more restrained than the sweet, big-boned Russian River Pinot Noir 2007. The Chardonnay was not available for tasting at the event I attended, but, at 14.1%, and 10 months in new and used French oak barrels, I wouldn't expect a lot of subtlety.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Vanderbilt Brings Out Spring Cocktail Menu

Brooklyn's The Vanderbilt has unveiled its spring cocktail menu, to coincide with the debut of Saul Bolton's spring dining menu. Pimm's, anniversary-kid Campari, in-season blood oranges all make appearances. Here's the list:

Campari and Strega Share 150th Birthday Honors

Who would have thought that two neon-colored Italian liquors founded in 1860 would survive to fill 21st century glasses?

It recently came to my attention that both Campari and Strega are celebrating their 150th anniversary this year. You'd think that if you had that kind of staying power, you'd earn the privilege of celebrate your sesquicentennial on your lonesome—at least in your own country! But no, the red and the yellow will have to share.

Strega (or Liquore Strega) was invented by Giuseppe Alberti, and has long been produced by the S. A. Distilleria Liquore Strega in Benevento, Campania, halfway between Rome and Naples. Its yellow color comes from the presence of saffron in its recipe. Approximately 70 herbal ingredients, including mint and fennel, help it out in the flavor department. "Strega" means Witch in Italian; hence, the drink's nickname, "The Witch."

Campari, meanwhile, hails from the north. It was the invention by Gaspare Campari in Novara, Italy. It originally got its vibrant red color through carmine dye, derived from (yeesh) crushed cochineal insects. It contains more than 60 ingredients, making it only a trifle less complex than Strega, if we go by the numbers. Campari has arguably won the popularity contest over the two bottle's 150-year run. Certainly, it's more prevalent in American bars.

If you want to honor both, don't sweat it. Campari is an apertif, Strega a digestif. You can enjoy both in the context of a single meal. 

Not sure how they feel about Strega, but you'll be well set for Campari drinks at the new Pulino's in Manhattan. See below.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Employees Only Team to Launch Line of Bar Mixers

The mixology team at the Greenwich Village cocktail den Employees Only—lead by Dushan Zaric and Jason Kosmas—will be launching in May a line of artisan bar mixers.

The new products will soon be available in New York through Fresh Direct. EO is kicking the line off with house made Grenadine and Lime Cordial, the same ones they have been using behind the bar for years.

Imbibe Names 25 Most Influential Cocktail Personalities of the Past Century

Well, now, here's an article that's bound to start a few barroom arguments over the next couple months. Imbibe magazine has stepped and named those 5-and-20 individuals they feel were the most influential cocktail figures of the past 100 years. Some are dead (Donn Beach, Harry Johnson, Harry MacElhone, Harry Craddock—oh, a lot of Harrys), but most are alive. So as to not contibute to any of those coming booze-fueled disputes, I'm just going to post the list as written, and without comment. Enjoy:

The 25 Most Influential Cocktail Personalities of the Past Century
The May/June 2010 issue cover story features the 25 Most Influential Cocktails of the Past Century. Compiling that list got us thinking about the people behind some of those cocktails, so we thought it only fitting to create a list of the 25 most influential cocktail personalities of the last 100 years. For this list, we considered the type of influence someone has had on the cocktail world as well as the duration of that influence—and keep in mind that these are people who have specifically influenced cocktail culture, not spirits. Whether they’ve created an iconic cocktail, spawned a cocktail trend or dedicated themselves to educating the public about the craft of cocktails, the following 25 people have undoubtedly impacted the way we all drink cocktails today, and for that, we raise a toast to each of them.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Cienfuegos' Rum Punch Bar "Cocteleria" Has Soft Opening Tonight, Opens Thursday

The rum punch bar faction of Cienfuego—the new East Village, Cuban food-and-drink place fostered by downtown cocktail mogul Ravi DeRossi (Mayahuel, Death & Co.)—will have its soft opening Monday night, April 26, working toward an official opening on April 30, manager Miguel Calvo told Off the Presses. It's name: Cocteleria! The Cuban sandwich shop section of the two-floor complex, called Carteles, opened earlier this year at 5 Avenue A, near E. 6th Street.

Cocktail-Glass Aging, or, Turning White Dog Tan

I recently met a bootleg distiller from upstate New York. We'll call him Laird. He's been making his own booze for about 30 years, and his knowledge of the craft is vast. I happened to have in my possession a few of the new white dogs that are on the market. I was curious what he thought of them, being a maker of white lightening himself, so I let him sample a couple.

After noting the presence of a paraffin flavor in making of the craft distillers making white dog out there, and generally disparaging the kind of cheap, Dutch stills he was sure each maker was using, he led me through an interesting science experiment. A friend of Laird's and mine—at whose home we met—is an amateur winemaker. He had some French wood chips on hand. Laird suggested I put a few of these in a glass of the Buffalo Trace White Dog (which has an alcohol content of 62.5%) and watch what happened. I was astounded. The whiskey started to take on the wood immediately. Within a minute, it was darker and tasted markedly different. In five minutes, it began to taste vaguely like aged whiskey. I had no idea such things could occur so quickly. "It only works with French oak," said Laird. "The French stuff is great for that. With American oak, it's a slower process." (Here's a photo of the whiskey in question, below.)

And that was that. Until I visited that same friend this weekend. He had an idea—wouldn't it be kinda cool to do the wood-chip thing, but in the context of a cocktail? Light bulb! It would indeed.

My friend gave me a small stash of French wood chips. I went home and prepared myself a white dog Old Fashioned, using Death's Door white whiskey. (Death's Door seems to be the white dog that works best in most standard cocktails.) I muddled a sugar cube with some Angostura, then threw the wood cube in there and stirred it around some more. I added the whiskey, stirred; ice, stirred.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Beer At...Ceol

For my latest Eater column, I went to a Cobble Hill Irish pub, not expecting any surprises inside, but finding some nonetheless.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Angostura Bitters Shortage Is Over

When you see a couple dozen bottles of Angostura at Fairway, and reasonably priced, you know that recent shortage of the vital cocktail ingredient is finally over.

Harvey Wallbanger Progeny Imperiled by Fire

You don't expect to write two Harvey Wallbanger items in the course of one day. (Hell, you don't expect to write one.) But sometimes fate intervenes.

Shortly after I posted my item about the iconic vodka cocktail making a surprise appearance on the drink menu at Keith McNally's Pulino's, I was sent a link to a New York Post story about a fire on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. What's a fire got to do with a drink? Well, the family affected were the Bedners, headed by husband and father David Bednar. David is the son of George Bednar, the Galliano salesman who is largely responsible for making the Harvey Wallbanger a popular quaff. (He successfully promoted the drink in the 1970s, but didn't invent it, as has been widely reported. Donato 'Duke' Antone was the creator.)

David and his wife Sally are both bankers. A two-alarm blaze broke out in the early hours of Thursday morning in a vacant apartment at 12 E. 80th St. beneath the home of the Bednars. David rushed his family to the roof, where they ran two roofs over to safety.
We learn something about George Bednar in the article. He played with the St. Louis Cardinals, and helped Notre Dame with a national football championship in 1964.  I wonder if any Harvey Wallbanger history went up in flames with the house.

Harvey Wallbanger Makes Glam Reappearance

There are some famous cocktails of the past that one feels the cocktail elite will never reclaim. Those leaders of the mixed drink renaissance were all over reviving forgotten pre-Prohibition libations like the Aviation, Martinez and whatever sling, flip or daisy you care to mention. Eventually they came around to embracing and respecting the whole line of tiki concoctions that thrived from the 1930s to the 1960s. They'll even give a nod to such simplistic, name-brand classics like the Cuba Libra, Greyhound and Moscow Mule.

But certain drinks are anathema. The Golden Cadillac for instance. The Tequila Sunrise, despite the recent rise of tequila as a mixer. The White Russian, even though it now has possesses a certain coolness due to its connection to "The Big Lebowski." Because of the louch quality of their ingredients, because of the way they mask their base spirit rather than celebrate it, because of their presumed trashiness, because they contain vodka (gasp!)—certain cocktail, most of them invented post-WWII, get the high hat from the cocktail crowd.

The Harvey Wallbanger is another such mixed drink that gets no respect. The drink—which possesses one of the most familiar names in cocktail history—was invented in 1952, the story goes, by Donato "Duke" Antone (who also invented the Rusty Nail and White Russian—king of sloppy drinks, was he) and was brought to international prominence by Galliano salesman, George Bedner. Bednar had reason to publicize the creation. The Harvey Wallbanger is the most famous drink ever invented to contain Galliano.

The Harvey Wallbanger takes vodka as its base, and Galliano and orange juice (another ingredient Cocktailians don't think much of) as its modifiers. Search around New York and you will not find this drink on the menu of any of the swankier watering holes.

Until now.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Fort Defiance Adds Lunch Cocktail Program

Fort Defiance, a early trailblazer in the growing trend of the cocktail-adorned brunch, has now launched a cocktail program designed to accompany weekday lunch.

The Red Hook cafe and bar has served lunch from the very beginning, serving toothsome dishes like Muffaletta Sandwich and Nicoise Tuna Sandwich. But beverages were limited lemonade, iced tea, seltzer, beer and wine. All very good, of course. Now, if you happen to be in the mood, or have decided to knock off work midday, you can indulge in a Cucumber Collins or Barbados Buck, all priced nicely. Here's the complete list:

The End of the Bar Car

What? You mean the "Mad Men" craze couldn't save it?

The New York Times brings us the sad, sad news that that bastion of civilization, that emblem to the notion that hardworking adults deserve to wind down on the ride home from work—the Bar Car—may be eliminated by MetroNorth, one of the few rail lines that still uses them. (One of the few rail lines period.)

According to the Times, "A new fleet of cars will soon replace the 1970s-era models now used by commuters on the Metro-North Railroad line heading to Connecticut. But with money tight, railroad officials said they could not yet commit themselves to a fresh set of bar cars, citing higher costs for the cars’ custom design. 'They’re being contemplated,' said Joseph F. Marie, Connecticut’s commissioner of transportation. 'But we have not made any final decisions.'" The big questions is if the railway, always strapped for cash, can make more money selling extra seats than drinks. The new cars will be phased in beginning at the end of 2010.

I've always wished the bar cars were more glam than they are—something akin to the lovely lounges you see in movies from the 1930s. Instead, they're rather tacky, unrelievedly brown-and-orange and look too much like the other passenger cars. And the selection of beers and drinks is terribly paltry. Still, I love them. They provide a respite from the prison of your seat, and ever-so-slightly romanticize your trip. (At least, if you can keep the frat boys and yahoos out of the car.)

Long Island Rail Road trains and MetroNorth trains to much of Westchester County and other points upstate do not have bar cars; only the trains to Connecticut. Which says a lot about living in Connecticut, both good and bad.

Mr. Marie, the commissioner, offers some tantalizing hints as to what new bars cars might look like if they were indeed built into the new trains.  "It would be nice to create a row-bench type of environment," he said. "Kind of like in a pub." OK, so we can see the man is not totally without enthusiasm about drinking.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Barolo From Sicily

One of the greatest glasses I downed at the recent Polaner tasting was the Etna Rosso from Calabretta.

I was directed to the table excitedly by a Polaner operative. It was indeed an unheralded destination place. People were fainting at that table from sheer pleasure. They couldn't get over the power and elegance of the Sicilian red being poured. People expect big, earthy devils from that hot, rocky island. But this was medium-bodied, and drank like a Barolo. It was heady, but elegant—smoky, dusk, full of cherry and plus. And a beautiful finish. What's going on here?

First of all, you've probably never heard of the two native varietals being blended here: Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio. They're usually blended with their more famous brother, Nero d'Avola. But they should think of getting their own press agent, if this wine is an example of what they have to offer. The particular grapes that go into this bottle are from vines 70-80 years old, mostly ungrafted, and grow at a high elevation, where the temperatures fluctuate greatly. The wines are made by Massimiliano Calabretta, who professes to make Sicilian wines in the classic method.

Here's the other mind-blower. The wines are aged for 7-8 years. So the 2001 I tasted was basically a 10-year-old wine. I saw a 1999 in a store shortly after, and it was going for $28! A ridiculous price for such an old and good wine.

Calabretta also makes limited amounts of a mineral, citrusy white wine made from old vine Carricante, another obscure local grape. This is very rare, but worth grabbing if you see it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Werther's Original in a Glass

By now, everyone's heard of the Benton's Old-Fashioned, Don Lee's bacon fat-washed spin on an Old Fashioned. But what about a serrano ham-washed Brandy Alexander?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Ma Peche's Cocktail Menu

Colin Alevras e-mailed the cocktail menu at the newly opened David Chang midtown eatery Ma Peche. Alevras is in charge of the bar program, and, aside from Don Lee's Seven Spice Sour (recommended) and Aisha Sharpe's 212, the recipes are his. There's already been some press on Short Island, his take on the Long Island Iced Tea. Nice to see a Cognac-based Sazerac, and Lemon Hart rum being used.

seven spice sour 
Togarashi infused "Momofuku" Honjozo, yuzu, lime, simple syrup

moscow mule
Tito's Vodka, lime, fresh ginger syrup, seltzer

sixpenny crank 
Ransom Old Tom Gin, Harviestoun Porter, lemon, sugar

cotton crown 
Bols Genever, Yellow Charteuse, Amaretto, lemon


Herradura Blanco Tequila, Aperol, grapefruit

dark and stormy
Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, fresh ginger syrup, lime, seltzer


Lemon Hart Rum, Flor De Caña 4yr Rum, lemon, cucumber, honey

ça plane pour moi 
Macchu Pisco, Pear William, Aperol, Maraschino, lime

bull in the heather 
Glenrothes Scotch, Dolin Sweet Vermouth, Absinthe, honey


Rittenhouse 100 Proof Rye, Carpano Antica, Orange Curaçao, bitters


Philippe Latourelle Cognac V.S., Absinthe, bitters, sugar

short island 
Gin, Vodka, Rum, Tequila, Cointreau, cola syrup, lemon

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Sipping News

Fernet Branca is now on tap in San Francisco, as if the city was trying to reassert its love of the bitter beverage in the wake of the liquor's new popularity in New York and Boston. [Tasting Table]

Jay McInerney debuts as the Wall Street Journal's new wine columnist, and riles up a great many with his name-dropping, money-obsessed, have-you-forgotten-we're-in-a-recession-tone-deaf style.

Andrew Putz extols the virtues of Michigan wine in Food & Wine.

Eater has begun running a regular wine column by Talia Baiocchi called "Decanted."

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on the rise of Japanese whiskey.

Orujo: Spanish for Grappa

Part of the fun of writing about liquor is that you never stop discovering intoxicants. Drinking is such an old human activity, and in many cases remains so fiercely regional, that the world is littered with liqueurs and spirits and wines that, though made in the same manner in the same place for centuries, are largely unknown to the greater world.

The other night, I was at a party hosted by a family with which I'm friends. The husband hails from Spain, and the family spends its summers in the small Spanish town where he was born. After a dinner of homemade paella, the couple asked me if I had ever tasted Orujo. No. I hadn't even heard of it. They pulled out a boxy bottle of clear liquid labeled A Pedra Moura Aguardiente de Orujo Blanca.

Explained simply, Orujo is the northwest Spain region of Galicia's answer to Grappa. It's distilled in a pot still from the fermented skins of local grapes. (The word Orujo means "grape pomace.") Many of the stills are quite old, and legend has it some were brought to the Iberian peninsula by the Arabs. Much of it is clear, or "blanca," but there is also aged Orujo, which is aged in barrels and is amber in color; and Orujos infused with herbs and fruit. There are only a few mass producers of Orujo, which explains why its not imported to the U.S. The best stuff, according to my friends, is made privately in people's basements, the few bottles produced being sold in shops in the amateur distiller's hometown. These are apparently amazing. In Spain, the stuff is typically drunk out of small cold glasses after lunch.

The one I sampled was very much like Grappa, but not quite. There was a oddly woody aftertaste that I could only attribute to the grape varieties involved. Or perhaps the spirit saw a little wood before it was bottled. But, unlike Grappa, a decent Orujo doesn't cost an arm and a leg for a tiny bottle. You can get 750 ml for about $15.

From orujo, Galicians make a traditional drink called queimada. The spirit is poured over bits of lemon peel, sugar and ground coffee into a clay pot. The pot is then lit on fire until the flame turns blue. Sounds ghastly. But I have a feeling it might taste great.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Beer At...Port 41

I've been to a lot of bars, but I never saw a woman clock a man until I went to Port 41, an out-of-the-wall hole on a bus thruway in Hell's Kitchen. I must say, it was rather thrilling.

A Beer At...Port 41
This bar is nestled between the twin transportation evils of Port Authority and theLincoln Tunnel. It smells of bus exhaust and stale sweat, with faint traces of fried oil, which could either be the free hot dogs, or the popcorn machine. A sign near the cash register reads "There is no sleeping anywhere in the bar." Perhaps in an effort to stave of this possibility, one soft-fleshed old man changed seats every ten minutes.
Port 41 is where day laborers and local union workers go to meet bartenders in bikinis. Or stare at bartenders in bikinis. Or just be served by bartenders in bikinis. Truth be told, there wasn't a lot of ogling going on. Some of the men were too tired, or too drunk, and some actually seemed too decent to treat the skinny, blonde Russian girl behind the bar badly.
So, rather than whistle or catcall, they talked to her, about this and that and the other thing. She liked talking. At one point she stated that, if she ever went for women, her type would be something along the lines of Michelle Rodriguez. "She's hot!" she said. That stopped conversation dead for a good 30 seconds, as those men who were paying attention briefly took time to imagine the two women together.
The Russian was wearing a black two-piece and some fish-net stockings. It was more along the lines of elaborate lingerie than a bikini. For all the skin she flashed, she was not the sexiest woman in the bar. That honor would go to the only other female there, a tall, lanky brunette. I don't know who she came with, but she left alone, and made quite an exit. After one affable blue-collar goosed her, she swung around, yelled "What the hell do you think you're doing?" and walloped the beefy gent upside the head with a force that won the stunned admiration of the room. "He pinched me in the ass!" she screamed in righteous indignation, apparently believing that such a thing would, and should, never happen in a roughneck bikini bar in Hell's Kitchen.
The struck man fell in surprised wonder. He looked exactly like a 10-year-old who'd just been punished. "I was just kidding around," he whimpered. The big brunette, unmoved, body-slammed him into the door jam as she left. No one chased after her. The injured man didn't even seem that angry. And why should he be? The altercation provided him and his pals with something good to talk about for the rest of the evening, as they smoked on the sidewalk and watched the tour buses rumble by.
—Robert Simonson

The Great House of Emidio Pepe

Say you were offered a vertical tasting of a wine house of your choice. Where would your imagination range first? Bordeaux? Burgundy? Barolo?

What about Montepulciano d'Abruzzo? Not exactly what you think of first when you think of age-worthy wine, is it? Well, I changed my mind on that count recently when I had the opportunity to try multiple vintages of the wines of Emilio Pepe. Pepe took over this estate in 1964, and, since then, his grapes have been biodynamically grown, hand-harvested, hand-destemmed, naturally fermented and aged 18 to 24 months in glass-lined tanks. No yeasts or sulfites are added during fermentation. They are not fined or filtered before bottling. Before the wine is commercially released, it is decanted into new bottles.

At a recent tasting, vintages from 2003 '02, '00, 1985, and 1983 were on hand. The Italian man in the sharp suit who poured was imperious and said nothing. I doubt he felt he had to. The wine spoke for itself.

The 2003 was great enough. Plum and cherry, dusty and deep, wonderful texture. I needed no more convincing. But it only got better from there. The 2001 was as good as the 2003, even if the finish was shorter. The 2000 was softer, more elegant and more redolent of the dusty terroir. The 1985 still retained great fruit flavors. It was more tannic and the structure was peerless. And then came the 1983. It had a heady perfume and was the color of magenta. Sediment could be seen mingling in the glass. It tasted of sour cherry, currents and soil. It was elegant and amazing. Next chance I get, I'm buying some Pepe and laying it down. The reward will be great.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Hell Freezes Over

Or, put differently, Maker's Mark has come out with a new bourbon.

For years, nay decades, Maker's Mark has made hay out of the fact that it makes one thing, and one thing only. Why mess with perfection, they trill. It's like a religion with them, this single-minded attending to The Great Waxy One. I was out there in Loretto, Kentucky, and heard the line when I asked them why they didn't  bottle an "over mature" bottle of Maker's, which I tasted and liked. Because the original is so good, they said. Why divert stock from a product the demand for which they can't even begin to satisfy?

Little did I or the world know that all that time—or at least the past few years—they've been working on a line extension. It's called Maker's 46, and it will be unleashed in June, with 10,000 cases shipping.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Champagne and Hot Dogs

For a couple years now, the Cognac people have been flying American mixologists and liquor pros out to France for "Cognac summits," trying to turn them onto the idea of using more brandy in their cocktail creations. Whenever I encounter one of the veterans of these trips, I ask them if they were converted to the cause, and they all take on the same resigned expression and wearily say "no." The reason? Cognac is just too damn expressive to make economic sense as a cocktail component. To use it will drive up the cost of the drink.

I thought about this recently as I sat down to a long meal of Champagne and hot dogs. That's right, Champagne and hot dogs. The event took place at Bark, the great dog joint in Park Slope. So the food was tasty. As was the wine. Dom Pérignon, Veuve Cliquot, Moet & Chandon, even Krug were being poured. The idea behind the peculiar repast, as with the Cognac meetings, was to get liquor pros and writers to think differently about Champagne. The worldwide recession has not been good to Champagne. People are drinking and demanding cheaper wines, and Champagne ain't that. Even in good times, Americans think of bubbly as a special-occasion bottle, for New Year's Eve and anniversaries and births. And though wine writers continually (and correctly) preach that sparkling wine goes beautifully with most food, folks are slow to learn, and loathe to pay for a bottle that costs so much more than the meal they're eating.

Even before the economic downturn, houses like Krug were trying to get consumers to think of Champagne as something you could drink everyday—a priceless pitch given the price of a bottle of Krug. This hot dog event was part of that push. And I was willing to listen to the argument, if only for its originality.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Portland Bartender Makes Tiki-Drink-Making Less Painful

I would make more tiki drinks at home than I do if they weren't so damn labor intensive. Not only do many of the cocktail have six or seven (or 12) ingredients; not only are many of the ingredients not the sort of thing you already have in your liquor cabinet, or which can be easily found in your local liquor store; but many of the ingredients are syrups that you have to assemble separately before you can even start to make the drink.

Among these are cinnamon syrup, passion fruit syrup, coffee syrup and a host of others, plus secret syrups created long ago by Donn Beach of Don the Beachcomber fame and mixologists of his ilk. We can thank author and tiki historian Jeff Berry for cracking the code on may of these potions. But we still have to make them if we want to sample, say, a Doniga Punch.

A Portland, OR, bartender and consultant named Blair Reynolds has now come to tiki-lovers' aid.

"American Idiot" Theatregoers Drink at St. Jimmy's

Inside the St. James Theatre on Broadway, the producers of the new musical "American Idiot," based on the Green Day album, have eschewed the usual lobby bar and set up a faux Irish pub called St. Jimmy—named after one of the characters in the punk rock concept album.

Actually, it's still pretty much a lobby bar, as far as selection and service go. But it's a neat idea. And you briefly feel like you're at a bar, owing to the neon sign. The bar is also open on both sides, in the front and in back, which faces onto a passageway by which the patrons enter the theatre.

You can take your drinks to your seat in this show, by the way.

Lost Cocktail of Summer?

Some colleagues and I were recently confronted with a list of Kahlua-based cocktails and asked to choose one. The usual suspects were there: White Russian, Black Russian, etc. Then there was the Kahlua Sour. The coffee liqueur paired with lemon juice and simple syrup. We all looked at each other in disbelief. Ew. What could be worse? We had to order it!

Our morbid curiosity was rewarded. It wasn't  horrible. It was great. The best Kahlua cocktail I've had. We all agreed—it was delicious and we wanted another. The Kahlua Sour seems to be one of those counter-intuitive cocktails that—like the Blood and Sand—looks horrible on paper, but tastes great in the glass. You wouldn't think of squeezing some lemon in your morning coffee, would you? But the lemon cuts through both the thickness and sweetness of the coffee liqueur in a wonderful way, slimming it down, sparking it and lightening it up. Though Kahlua might seem the last thing you think of when you think light, summer drinking, I suggest you give it a try.

Kahlua Sour
1 1/2 oz. Kahlua
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/2 simple syrup
Combine ingredients over ice. Shake. Strain into rocks glass. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

That Liqueur Is Alive! Alive!!

Last year, I wrote a piece for Imbibe about the coming resurrection—via Robert Cooper of St. Germain fame—of Creme Yvette. In the name of research, Robert sent me a vial of the purple stuff to taste and experiment with.

I remember Cooper fretting about whether the liqueur would hit the market as scheduled, and coincide with the article. He mentioned that he was still tweaking the product. The story appeared in September; Creme Yvette finally hits the shelves in March. 

A full sample, in its new and handsome vessel (another triumph of art deco design along the lines of St. Germain), soon arrived at my door. But something was different. The liquid seemed more vibrantly purple. I tasted it. The berry flavors were more pronounced than I recalled, the violet notes more subdued. I made a Blue Moon cocktail. The color of the drink popped as I didn't remember it had last summer; it was a vibrant, neon shade. And the cocktail drank better, too.

To confirm my suspicions, I took out what was left of the 2009 Creme Yvette sample. No doubt: the color was a softer, subtler violet, and the flavor tasted more of violets than berries.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Loire in the Night

It seems to be the moment to think of Loire reds. A couple weeks ago, the New York Times' The Pour column dwelled on the Cabernet Franc-derived wines of this eternally undervalued region, their value when considered in the context of a recessionary economy, and their relative unpopularity when compared to other world reds.

Around this time, I was invited to a tasting of several Loire reds at Gotham Bar & Grill. I had no objection to attending. As I've started before, I'm a fan of the wines of the long Loire valley, which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean (Muscadet land) to the east, all the way to the middle of France, where it terminates in Sancerre, which produces what is probably the most famous of the region's whites. Along the way one passes through the tight cluster of Chinon, Bourgueil, St. Nicholas de Bourgueil and Saumur-Champigny, and it was from these AOCs that the wines of the night hailed.