Friday, October 29, 2010

A Visit to Lani Kai

Saloon keeper Julie Reiner has been adamant that her new SoHo bar, Lani Kai, is not a tiki bar, but tavern evocative of the Pacific and her native Hawaii. And, indeed, the place kind of falls between two stools, landing somewhere between the sophisticated cocktail dens she's known for (Flatiron Lounge, Clover Club) and the newer tiki joints (Painkiller). There are tropical touches in the decor, but they're not overdone. The menu offers a Pupu platter and poi donuts, but also pork buns, lobsters roles, chicken wings and other things you could find at many another Manhattan spot. Many of the drinks feature rum and various fruit juices, but none of them are served in tiki mugs. The glassware is, well, glass.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Four Whites From Friuli and One Red From Calabria

Italian vintner Venica & Venica's covers Italy's boot from tongue to instep.

While most of its bottlings are white from the Collio section of Friuli, in the northeast corner of Italy, near the Slovenia border, it also produces a beguiling red from Calabria. The winemaker Giampaolo Venica recently hosted a tasting of his line on the outside patio of The Modern restaurant, where a couple of his wines are regularly poured by sommelier Belinda Chang.

Venica & Venica wines are grown on 28 hectares over seven hills in Collio that boast, according to Giampaolo, 55 different micro-climates.
Both Chang and Giampaolo told me that the winery holds by the "Ronco Del Cero" Sauvignon Blanc as its best, and signature, wine. Which I (and Chang) found somewhat odd, since another Sauvignon Blanc, "Ronco Delle Mele," was the real stunner. An amazingly tropical trip of tart orange, lime, lemon, resting on a bed of chalky minerality and wrapped in bracing acidity, it drank like a superior New Zealand S.B. (In a blind tasting, I would have sworn it came from that country.) Cero was in the same ballpark, but seemed less stunning, simpler, less bright than the Cero. I would be totally happy with the Cero at any meal—until presented with the Mele. At which point I would switch.

Of the other whites poured, the Friulano was full, with tangerine and lime flavors; and the Pinot Grigio "Jesura" was well above the average PG from almost anywhere else in northwest Italy. But the most interesting wine on the table was arguably the Terre di Balbia "Balbium" 2008. This is V&V's only bottling from Calabria, made from 20-year-old vines of the native varietal Magliocco. Magliocco was once widely planted in southern Italy, but is almost extinct today. Bottled after a year in old casks, Balbium is 14.5% alcohol, but tasted much lighter. It has a rich, musky nose. Medium-bodied and wonderfully drinkable, it tastes of plum, dust and cherry, the texture somewhere between silky and sandy. A wonderful food wine, I'm guessing.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Molto Nebbiolo at Maialino, Plus and Aged Martinez and Mix-and-Match Cocktails

The drinking is looking kinda interesting at the Maialino, the hot, vowel-heavy Italian restaurant near Union Square. The quirky, irresistible Nebbiolo Bar, set up by wine director Liz Nicholson, would be enough to draw in any curious drinker. It offers expressions of the red grape (best known as the raw material of Barolo and Barbaresco) from seven major growing areas in Italy and using different forms of vinification, including a sparkling, white, rose, and even an amarone-style wine. 

But now Nicholson has some competition from Kevin Denton, manager at the Gramercy Park Hotel Roof Club & Garden, who has put together a trio of intriguing cocktail options for the restaurant. Showing he's hip to the barrel-aged cocktail trend, Denton is offering Oak-Aged Martinez (Tom Gin, Sweet Vermouth and Maraschino). There's a seductive sounding spin on a classic in the Smoked Fig Old Fashioned, made of smoked fig-infused Rye whiskey and tobacco bitters. And, finally, there's an opportunity to experiment. An imbiber can match house-made root, birch and ginger beers with the spirit of their choice.

A smart, and nicely short, list.

The Sipping News

New York cocktails crowd the $20 mark. While this is true at some new places, like the Lambs Club, the article—typical for the sensationalistic Post—is misleading. At most of the bars they mention (PDT, Pegu Club, Milk & Honey, etc.), the average price is still around $14. However, that is an increase from the $13 price tag that was the norm a year ago. [NY Post]

It also now costs more to drink on the Long Island Railroad. [Gothamist]

Another boast from the Post: Sherry is popular again. I wish it were so. [NY Post]

West Village cocktail joint Little Branch will be adding a cafe upstairs (aka street level). [The Villager, via Eater]

Jimmy, a new rooftop cocktail bar in the James Hotel, has opened in SoHo. This, unfortunately, is one of those places that offers $18 cocktails. Since it's partly founded by Hotel Griffou's Johnny Swet and Larry Poston, whose cocktails I've tasted at Griffou, I'm not sure the price is warranted. But I will reserve judgment until I try them. [Eater]

Japanese wineries (huh?) are trying to turn table grape Koshu into world-class wine. [Times]

Park Avenue Liquor Shop Debuts Exclusive Tequila

Park Avenue Liquor Shop, the Manhattan liquor oasis, has been in the exclusive whiskey biz for some years, carrying various one-of-a-kind whiskey bottlings, some sources from Tuthilltown's stores and bearing the store's own name.

Now the Goldstein family, which has owned Park Avenue for 50-plus years, is getting into the tequila biz. The shop has acquired what it claims is one of only three existing barrels of tequila from Casa Noble CEO Jose “Pepe” Hermosillo. These casks are known as his “friends & family” barrels and, sez Park Avenue, have never been commercially available. 

Casa Noble Single Barrel Extra Anejo Tequila Aged 7 Years was bottled exclusively for the store. It is certified organic and, in case that weren't enough, Kosher for Passover. The 80 proof, 750ml bottle will retail for $100 is available for purchase now. Only 300 bottles are available. I have tasted a sample. It's dark in color, very smooth, and has a kind of Cognac quality, with all the concomitant flavors. 

The unusually old tequila (by comparison, regular Anejos are aged a minimum of one year) is aged in a single French white oak barrel, made from 100% Blue agave, and triple distilled. Single-barrel Tequila—you don't see that much.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Spiced Rum, Meet Spiced Whiskey

Why should spiced rum be the only booze to rake in the cash during the current craze over, well, spiced rum?

Here comes spiced whiskey.

Actually Revel Stoke, a spiced Canadian whisky, has been around for a decade. But it's always been hard to find in the U.S. (Perhaps no one was looking.) And in recent years, the Phillips Distilling Company, which produced it, began focusing on other projects.

But now their interest has been revived, and Revel Stoke will fill U.S. shelves this fall, all "re-branded" and everything. Phillips freely admits that the spiced rum boom inspired the move. "Since 30 percent of all rum volume is spiced, Phillips Distilling Company thought that the same could be applied to whisky," said a spokesperson. Revel Stoke is 90 proof. This is a higher proof than competitors Jack Daniels or Crown Royal. Phillips recommends you drink it with Coca-Cola, which, I predict, many will, if only to afford themselves the opportunity of ordering a "Stoke and Coke."

Friday, October 22, 2010

Counting Room Unveils Fall Cocktail List

The Counting Room, the Williamsburg bar which is armed with the great mixologist Maks Pazuniak, whose amazing work with cocktails I first encountered last summer at Cure, a bar in New Orleans, has a new cocktail list. 

A couple great drinks, the Salt & Ash and the Italian Heirloom, will remain. But a few new ones arrive:

One for Sorrow, Two for Joy
Deaths Door Gin, Lime, Rich Simple, Laphroaig 10 Yr

Blackboard JungleSmith & Cross Rum, Lime, Pedro Ximenez Sherry, Allspice Dram

How to TravelCinnamon-infused Laird's Applejack, Cinzano Italian Vermouth, Lemon, Honey, Angostura, Lagunitas IPA

New York in the 70'sOld Overholt Rye, Smith & Cross, Islay Scotch, Demerara, Boker's Bitters, Green Chartreuse and Orange oil.

A Beer At...Playwright Celtic Pub

This place grew on me. It has the right attitude, toward its patrons, toward itself, toward its neighborhood. It makes you feel welcome, and helps you forget midtown and the tourists outside.

A Beer At...Playwright Celtic Pub
Hal, of General Flooring (according to his shirt), is shit-faced. Those whopping pint glasses in front of him are filled with not just with Coke, but also Jack Daniel's. And by the looks of it, he's had six. Yet he reaches for Jimmy's bottle and tops off his glass with it. "Whaddaya doin'?" protests Jimmy. "Giving it a little bite," says Hal with a lopsided smile. Jimmy's drinking a non-alcoholic Buckler's, of course, but whatever. At this point, who cares?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Relentless 21st Century

Shafer Vineyards released its first vintage of Relentless, its Napa Valley Syrah blend, in 1999. This week, for the first time, father and son John and Doug Shafer lined up every vintage through 2007—plus barrel samples of 2008 and 2009—to see how the wine ages.

Turns out they age quite well. Not a big surprise, given the amount of alcohol, tannin and fruit we're dealing with here. Relentless ranges from 14.8% to 15.5% alcohol, and 20% of this unusual blend is the never-petite Petite Sirah. Shafer doesn't make dainty wines.

Relentless is made to age from 10 to 15 years, but is also advertised as drinkable upon release. But based on this tasting, the next time I get my hands on a bottle, I'm going to lay it down and wait ten years. My favorite wines were the unmistakably the 1999 and, especially, the 2000. The huge flavors of dark fruit had receded, and secondary flavors of tar, twig and tobacco came to the fore, and balance the palate out. Furthermore, the nose had opened and released wonderful scents of sagebrush and cooked fruit. The noses on the younger wines were still quite closed. Age also seemed to bring the wines together. The looser assemblage of tannin, juicy fruit and acidity found in the recent vintages wove into a harmonious blend. The big tannins never receded, but they integrated themselves. The 2000, a bit tight at first, just got better as it received more time and air.

Doug Shafer also liked the 2005, which was indeed drinking well. It was full (they were all full) and ripe, with notes of tobacco among the cherry, plum, prune and such. It will likely go a long way.

Relentless ages for 26-30 months in French oak, and then eight months in bottle. It's all new barrels now, but in the past there were some older casks. Much of the Syrah and Petite Sirah are co-fermented.

The Relentless wines are remarkably consistent, just as all Shafer wines are. From 2007 to 1999, there were differences from vintage to vintage, but it was always recognizably the same savory wine taking a long, slow journey into maturity.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New Bombay Gin Product Out in May 2011; Bacardi Also Bringing New Vodka and Cognac to U.S.

Few of my recent posts are clicked on as often as the one announcing that Bombay Sapphire is planning to release a new expression of its gin soon. That big, blue, category juggernaut is one popular elixir.

So far, no word on what the new product will be called. But the launch has been pushed back to May 2011. So be patient, gin blossoms.

There's other news from Bombay's parent company, Barcardi, however. Recently, the liquor corporation announced the launch of Bacardi Reserva Limitada in the U.S. It's described as a "premium rum originally created for the Bacardi family." It was first made available to the public in 2003 to celebrate the opening of the visitors center at our distillery in Puerto Rico. Until now, the only place you could get it was at the distillery and at a handful of fine spirit shops the Cayman Islands, Bahamas and Aruba.

Reserva Limitada is made of the various Barcardi rums rested in lightly-charred American white oak barrels for between 10 and 16 years. Costs about $100.

Also, in January 2011 Barcardi is bringing Eristoff Vodka. Unknown here, it is called the top-selling vodka in France, Portugal and Austria—three very-different countries. It originates from Georgia and was first created for Prince Eristoff in 1806. The last members of the Eristoff family were Prince Nicolai Alexandrovich Eristoff, who died in 1970, and his sister, Olga, who died in 1991. Neither had children, making Eristoff's Barcardi's baby solely.

Barcardi is also planning to introduce Otard Cognac in the U.S., possibly within the next 6-12 months. It's already here, but hard to find. Not a great time for Cognac right now, so this is a brave move on Bacardi's part.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mad Men and Drinking, Season Four, Finale: Meet the New Don, Same as the Old Don

Season Four didn't conclude with a smashingly eventful episode the way Season Three did—where the Sterling Cooper troupe pulled off an "Ocean's Eleven" caper to pull the agency out from under the nose of the devouring, traitorous British. Instead, Matthew Weiner delivered another quietly excellent chapter in a season that has had many of them.

And it did contain one "surprise": Don got engaged, and not to the person you expected. But any astute viewer of the show saw that one coming. Jesus, Dr. Faye Miller herself—Don's main squeeze throughout the season—called it in episode two when she said Don was the "type" who got remarried soon after getting divorced.

Also, anyone who saw the way little Sally ran from Dr. Faye and into the arms of maternal, and beautiful secretary Megan, could guess which lady Draper would choose in the end. Though it went sour for him with Betty, Don still believes in the American dream he sells to consumers—the beautiful, docile, supportive wive and family, who don't question Dad too much, and certainly don't know his real identity and horrible secret. Faye was an attractive, competent, modern woman, a perfect match for Don in many ways, mainly intellectually. But she was no good with children, proudly didn't cook, and knew he was really Dick Whitman. Don grew and matured a lot this season, but not enough to see in Faye his life mate. He's still half living a lie. And I think even Draper knows he's probably backpedeled a bit in proposing to Megan without giving her the whole scoop on his fraught back story. Note that he begins the episode in the dark with Faye, and ends it in the dark with Megan, looking searchingly out the window. He's a lost man. Perhaps permanently.

Since "The Summer Man," where Don started to swim and cut back on the booze, "Mad Men" has been noticeably less centered on liquor. That One Drink Too Many has not forced many (or any) plot points in recent episodes. Faye drank little, maybe some wine. Megan doesn't seem to drink at all. Roger still hits the vodka and gin more than anyone in the office, but he's a creature of habit. Nothing new in his repertoire.

Hilariously, there was a pitcher of Bloody Marys on the table at Don and Pete's meeting with the American Cancer Society. I guess they don't care about liver disease or anything like that. Just cancer. Megan and her friend go to the Whiskey a Go Go during a trip to L.A., when she babysits Don's kids (and nets a marriage proposal). Betty's hubby Henry drinks a bottle of Ballantine while packing boxes and fighting with poor, sad, mad Bets. And Don drinks a Miller Hi-Life while in bed in L.A. First time that popular beer has been seen on the show.

There was, however, the very smart use of a bottle of Don's trusty Canadian Club in the last five minutes, where Don unexpectedly meets ex-wife Betty in the cleared out kitchen of their Ossining home. Betty has finally decided to move out (mainly to get Sally away from creepy neighborhood kid Glen). Don has come by to show the house to a perspective buyer. When informed that the movers have not done a very thorough job on the place, he knowingly reaches into the back of a high cupboard and finds an unopened bottle of CC. He pours some into a coffee cup, and shares it with Betty as he breaks the news of his engagement.

It's a tender scene—they don't fight—and an apt one. So much of the Draper marriage centered on drink. Don drank a lot, and Betty picked up the habit. Who knows how much shorter, and more bitter, their union might have been if they didn't have that eternal buzz to lean on. At the end of the scene, they both leave the kitchen, going separate ways, leaving nothing but the cup and the bottle on the table.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Work of Stan Jones, 1970s Bar Master

Where there any mixologists of note during the 1970s? Bartenders worth remembering, or revering, during that darkest of dark decades in cocktail history? I thought not. Until I picked up the new fall menu at Clover Club and noticed a section of drinks entitled "The Work of Stan Jones." Who?

Stan Jones was a bartender out in California in the 1970s who, despite the relative lack of interest in the cocktail art back then, managed to get a big tome called "Jones' Complete Bar Guide" published in 1977. The bartender at Clover produced a dog-eared copy of the doorstop. Its a huge thing, the size of an atlas, with a bright orange dustjacket. Stan's there on the back in a big, black and white photo, with permed hair, moustache, glasses, and a hundred-mile stare, looking like a zombie as he pours a drink.

The book is intense. There are in-depth chapters on every spirit, and about 4,000 drink recipes, both ancient and the kind of libations that only saw popularity in the days is Disco. Jones was obviously very serious about his craft, though I did notice that his ideas about some of the classics were a little skewed.

Clover Club is featuring three of Jones' original. One, called the Great Secret, is basically a spin on a Vesper. I ordered the more interesting-sounding Snoopy—one, because of the oh-so-'70s names; two, because of the intriguing array of ingredients: Bourbon, Orange Liqueur, Galliano, Campari, and lemon juice. The drink's not bad. It's on the sweet side and on the red side, with not a whole lot of depth. But the Bourbon and the Campari give it enough of an edge, and its very easy going down. Very of its time, I should think, but not undignified.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Sipping News

Here's a promotion I can get behind. Astor Wine & Spirits, to celebrate the rescue of the miners in Chile, is offering 15% off Chilean wines Oct. 13.

Burger & Barrel, a new pub in SoHo, will feature Red Hook Winery wines on tap. [Eater]

David Wondrich talks punch. [NYT]

Great Beaujolais producer Marcel Lapierre died Oct. 10 at age 60. [NYT]

Smith & Vine, the Carroll Gardens wine shop, has doubled its space. [Pardon Me for Asking]

V-Note, a new "vegan wine bar," opened on the Upper East Side. [Grub Street]

Ice Harvesting in TriBeCa

The cocktail world's obsession with ice just took a big step forward. Soon, no bar owner will be able to hold his head up if not equipped with their own ice works.

Here's an item I wrote on the new Weather Up in Tribeca for the Times' Diner's Journal:

TriBeCa Bar Will Have Its Own Iceworks
Weather Up, Kathryn Weatherup’s latest eponymously named cocktail bar — set to open at 159 Duane Street in TriBeCa in early November — is one saloon that will never have to send out for ice.
“We’re going to be the first bar on the East Coast of the United States that is doing in-house ice harvesting and production,” said partner Richard Boccato. Whether that’s precisely true or not, as any cocktail aficionado knows, ice — its purity, its size, its shape — is of paramount importance to the modern mixologist. The ice-works will be in the basement, but chunks of the cold stuff will be on display through the bar, cut into pieces by “bandsaw, chainsaw, chisels, hammers, and other torture devices,” as Mr. Boccato put it.
The ice machine is called the Clinebell CB300X2 Carving Block Ice Maker, and costs $6,000. According to Mr. Boccato, it produces two 300-pound blocks of crystal clear ice every three to four days through a slow-freezing cycle. A pump mounted inside the machine’s cabinets circulates the water, thus preventing impurities from freezing into the block, and as well as the formation of troublesome oxygen bubbles and striations which make carving difficult.
“Essentially this ice freezes in the same fashion as natural ice freezes in a lake — from the bottom up,” Mr. Boccato said. “Once the cycle is finished, excess water and impurities are removed from the top of the block prior to harvesting by use of a common wet and dry vacuum. The blocks are then broken down to suit our needs.”
The ice will come in handy chilling the daily selection of oysters and caviar. “It’s basically the best way to put salt in your body,” said Matthew Maddy, another partner in the venture, and one of the founders of No. 7 in Fort Greene. (For the more prosaically hungry, there will be French fries.) Ms. Weatherup and Mr. Maddy founded the original Weather Up (pictured), in Prospect Heights, in 2008. At the time, it was one of the first high-end cocktail joints to brave the Brooklyn scene. Both the Brooklyn and Manhattan bars will share the same vaulted ceiling of white ceramic tiles.
“Because this is a bigger, more complicated project,” said Mr. Maddy, “we wanted to bring in some friends and family.” That includes Tyler Kord, the chef at No. 7; and Mr. Boccato, an owner of Dutch Kills in Long Island City and a fierce proponent of the kind of classic pre-Prohibition cocktails the TriBeCa Weatherup will serve.
The bar will open daily at 3 p.m., offering six to eight draft lines, a selection of wines and an array of martinis and manhattans — what Mr. Boccato calls a “warm-up” cocktail list, made to accompany the oysters. Other cocktails will be available as the day wears on.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mad Men and Drinking, Season Four, Episode 12: Cold Turkey

Don Draper didn't give up booze in "Blowing Smoke," the penultimate episode of "Mad Men"'s fourth season. He gave up cigarettes. At least on paper. Stymied by SCDP's inability to get a meeting with any new client since losing Lucky Strike, he came out against Big Tobacco with a full-page ad in the New York Times, announcing that, since smoking was bad and bad for you, the firm would no longer be taking on tobacco clients.

It was a bold move, one that pissed off his partners since he (naturally) didn't consult them; a cynical move, since Draper readily admitted he placed the ad to "change the conversation" about the firm and generate new business, not wave the flag of his ideals; and, ultimately, a somewhat sincere and heartfelt gesture. Lucky Strike had been bad for SCDP. It caused them to act badly (i.e., fire Sal; indulge the odious Lee Garner, Jr.) They have depended on it too much. They were addicted to its money. Now they'll have to really work.

Draper took a number of belts of the brown stuff during the episode. In his office and at the grubby apartment of erstwhile Boho mistress, now heroine addict, Midge. Though he kept his head when he should. There was a menu on the table of the black, tomb-like restaurant when he met with Heinz's "beans, vinegars and sauces" man, but no drinks on the table. Pete, who doesn't drink much anymore, took some painkiller at home after learning he had to, as a partner, pony up fifty grand as collateral for the bank. I do not, however, recognize the squat little bottle of whiskey Pete keeps on his bar in his apartment.

Old New York restaurant call-out of the week: La Caravelle. One of the great old French places in Manhattan. It existed on W. 55th from 1961 to 2004. We didn't see it, but Don and Faye were planning to go there.

Julie Reiner's Lani Kai Set to Open Oct. 12; Menu Revealed

Julie Reiner's new Hawaiian-themed bar, Lani Kai—arguably the most anticipated cocktail joint arrival of New York's fall season—will open to the public on Tuesday, Oct. 12.

The drink menu—much of which was concocted by Reiner and Lani Kai's head bartender Joe Swifta (a transplant from Reiner's Flatiron Lounge)—is divided into the headings Spice & Tropical Tea (you'll find either tea or spice, or both, in every drink); Another Day in Paradise (I assume this has something to do with the effect these drinks will have on you); Boozy and Stirred (no juice in these); Liquid Luau (large libations intended for large parties); and Old School (Ti Punch, Queen's Park Swizzle, Mai Tai and Knickerbocker Royale). Most use a rum base, but there are also drinks founded on Bourbon, Mezcal, Rye, Tequila, Scotch, Gin, and Cachaca. Among the musical acts invoked by the cocktails are the Eagles (the Hotel California and Witchy Woman) and The Beatles (8 Days a Week).

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Beer At...Abilene

My latest "A Beer At..." column from Eater. A place in my neighborhood:

A Beer At...Abilene
Abilene is perfectly positioned to absorb tired Brooklyn commuters as they pour out of the F train's Carroll Street station at 6 PM and head down Court Street to their homes inside the brownstones of Carroll Gardens. Many pass it by, but always with a thirsty glance in the bar's direction. Others dart in and order a Maker's on the rocks, a Jack and Coke or a draft.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mad Men and Drinking, Season Four, Episode 11: "This Is One"

More stress for Don Draper, more reasons to reach for the bottle.

Last week, Draper was scared the Feds might uncover his secret identity. That blew over. But now he's learned that Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce's biggest client, Lucky Strike, has flown the coop, leading to a full-on crisis in the office and in the advertising world rumor mills. Clients are running scared, and rival agencies are looking to poach talent. Hello, Canadian Club!

But Don's still keeping a lip on his consumption, even if he asks for help from two handy women—girlfriend Faye Miller, and new secretary, Megan, who's looking a bit "All About Eve"-ish in this episode. "I need a favor," Don tells Megan, as he pours a drink. "Don't let me overdo it." What's overdoing it?, asks Megan. "Three," answers Don, succinctly. "This is one." He ends up the day "one over."

Also noticed that Peggy keeps a bottle of Wild Turkey in her office. She's her own woman.

Oh! And this: on the black board in the SCDP conference room, listed as a "likely" new client, Four Roses Bourbon!

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Ice Is the Glass

The latest trend in ice? It's not in the glass. It is the glass.

I previously posted about chef Grant Achatz's experiment with injecting the ingredients of on Old Fashioned into a hollow, egg-shaped piece of ice. Not Albert Trummel of Apotheke, another fantastique of the drink world, has introduced the Miracle on Doyers Street as part of his new and expensive (every drink if $65) "Reserve Cocktail List."

The description: "Chilled Limited Edition Belvedere Intense Vodka, Taami Berry Power (Miracle Fruit), Served in a Hand-Carved Ice Block With a Selection of Sweet & Savory Fruits."

But how do you pick it up? Do they give you gloves?

Most of the other Reserve Cocktails, by the way, involve Krug Champagne. Just so you feel you're getting your money's worth.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Forty Four, the Complete Menu, Punch and All

Now that the Royalton's new bar program is officially open for business, I feel at liberty to unveil the entire cocktail menu, designed by Cocktail Collection pictured above. I had the opportunity to preview some of the drinks last week at a time when all six members were in attendance. I can speak well of the Maiden's Prayer, Champagne Cobbler, Stone Place, Hocus Pocus and very well of Vieux Carre (made not too sweet, as is often the case), Other Word and the Martha Washington Punch, which is beautifully served up in a crystal bowl and heavy glasses, which fresh slices of citrus and freshly grated nutmeg. I put the authors of the various drinks (those I could remember) in parentheses. 

There will also be a barrel program, in which certain spirits will be aged in particular barrels and then later used to mix into proprietary cocktails.

One amusing note: One of Misty Kalkofen's contributions, the Pharoah Cooler, was on the menu for only the briefest time. Forty Four gets all its fruit and juices from a local organic supplier. Soon after the Cooler went on the menu, the bar was informed that Watermelon was no longer in season. So the Cooler's brief reign was over. She will soon add a different drink.

Here's the menu:

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Key to the Appetite Unlocks American Market

I wrote a small item for the October issue of Wine Enthusiast about Bonal Gentiane Quina, another great find from Eric Seed, and a wonderful aperitif (if not quite as wonderful as that other recent Seed aperitif import, Cocchi Americano):

Minnesota-based liquor importer Haus Alpenz's Eric Seed is a master at sleuthing out obscure but great elixirs and bringing them to the attention of the American public. He's the man's who recently improved the U.S.'s vermouth lot ten-fold by shipping in the Dolin line. His latest find in Bonal Gentiane Quina ($25), an French aperitif wine that has been made since 1865. It's treasured overseas, but disappeared from these shores around 1940. Now it's back. A Mistrelle base infused with gentian, cinchona and herbs found in the Grand Chartreuse mountains, Bonal has a dry, bitter, bracing bite that effortlessly unlocks the appetite. Hence it's longtime nickname, "ouvre l'appetit" ("the key to the appetite") and the presence of a long skeleton key on the distinctive yellow label. As with more classic aperitifs—including Haus Alpenz's other excellent recent import, Cocchi Americano, from Italy—it's best appreciated straight, on the rocks or with a twist. Doubtless, that won't dissuade bartenders from tinkering with Bonal. But there's so much complexity in this quaff that it hardly needs added guests to make the party more interesting. 
—Robert Simonson