Friday, April 29, 2011

Andaz Fifth Avenue Honors Manhattan Cocktail Classic With Special MCC Advisors Cocktail List

Andaz 5th Avenue, the hotel whose fine basement bar cocktail menu was devised by the Alchemy consulting crew, will pay homage for the upcoming Manhattan Cocktail Classic by doing a special month-long May cocktail menu in partnership with the cocktail convention.

The list will feature original cocktails by six of MCC's baker's dozen of advisory board members, including drinks invented by mixologists Julie Reiner and Dale DeGroff, William Grant & Co.'s Charlotte Voisey, Pernod Ricard's Simon Ford, and journalist/authors David Wondrich and Gary Regan. Here's the list:

Dale DeGroff – Ritz Cocktail (Cognac, Cointreau, Maraschino liqueur, lemon juice, Champagne, orange peel garnish)
Simon Ford - Sacrebleu (Martell Cognac VSOP, sweet red vermouth, Cointreau, Peychaud's bitters, Pernod Absithe)
Gary Regan – Mink Coat and No Manners (Don Julio blanco tequila, green Chartreuse, cayenne pepper)
Julie Reiner – Bridgetown Stomp (Cockspur rum, Cinzano sweet vermouth, Campari, Cio Ciarro, simple syrup, orange bitters, orange twist)
Charlotte Voisey – Unusual Negroni (Hendrick's gin, Lillet blanc, Aperol, grapefruit twist)
David Wondrich – The Weeski (Jameson Irish whiskey, Lillet blanc, Cointreau, orange bitters, lemon peel garnish)

All the drinks are $16.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dos Equis Wants You to Eat Grasshoppers on Cinco de Mayo

I usually don't write about the hokey promotional event trotted our daily by the liquor companies. But this Cinco De Mayo gimmick was interesting enough to share.

Starting April 28 and running through May 7, Dos Equis will be rolling out the Feast of the Brave food truck, which will doll out gratis tacos filled with—pause—ostrich, veal brain, tongue and chapulines (that's grasshoppers, friend).

The truck will visit various areas of Manhattan, including SoHo, East Village, Meat Packing District, Union Square, Lower East Side, Bryant Park and more.

The World's First Porn Star Rum

What can one say about Ron de Jeremy Rum, the first rum named after an adult film star? Well, it's the first rum named after an adult film star. 

The initial quality in its favor is it hands you a laugh. Every double-entendre word on the bottle tells you the project has a knowing sense sense of humor about itself. It goes by the title "The Adult Rum" and is described as having "long, smooth flavor." There's also a pseudo-serious portrait of Jeremy on the label, looking wistful, and vaguely Christ-like. At any party, it will do its job as an ice-breaker.

Also in its favor is its skilled creator, 72-year old Cuban Master Blender Francisco “Don Pancho” Fernandez, who has worked at Havana Club, Zafra and Abuelo. Finally, it's a decent rum, a 7-year-old Panamanian which will not change your life, but is quite likeable, medium-bodied, and caramel-vanilla pleasant. I wasn't blown away sipping it straight, but I found it mixed rather well. I made a fine Daiquiri with it. And it's only $30.

Monday, April 25, 2011

M. Wells Toying With Tiki

I visited the hot Long Island City restaurant/diner M. Wells the other day to sample through some of the cocktail program (recommended: the Defenestration), when mixologist Zachary Gelnaw-Rubin gave me a looksee at something he's working on for the warmer months. (Warning: this drink is still very much in the works, and is not currently available.) He's ordered about a hundred coconuts. After hollowing them out, he fills them with a blended tiki concoction (currently coconut milk, batavia arrack, lime, sugar and Aperol). The retained coconut water, meanwhile, is serves in a rocks glass, upon which the coconut vessel is perched, as seen above.

"So, like a hangover and the hangover cure served in one package," I said. "Exactly," he replied. I'd buy that.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Is That Cognac No. 5 You're Wearing?

Possible new design trend: liquor vessels that look like giant perfume bottles.

In the past couple months, I've been sent bottles of Collingwood, a new Canadian whisky from Brown-Forman, and Fussigny Cognac XO, which is back on the U.S. market after a few years' absence. I didn't know whether to drink them, or dab a little behind each ear.

Fussigny Cognac was acquired by entrepreneurs Jean-Dominique Andreu and Patrick Giudicelli in 2008, and is now imported to the U.S. by Castle Brands. Fussigny's line consists of Sélection, Supérieur Fine Champagne, and its flagship XO Fine Champagne. The latter is a beautiful, elegant brandy which avoids the sweetness that plagues so many of the leading Cognacs.

Collingwood is Brown-Forman's latest attempt to reinvigorate the Canadian whisky category. The company has raided its vast whiskey holding north of the border to create this blended whisky, then triple-distilled it and finished it by resting it with toasted maplewood. The resultant taste is unusual—smooth, floral, citrusy and toasty, with maplewood very noticeable. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The State of Canadian Whisky

The eye-rolling I had to endure during my month researching and writing this New York Times piece on Canadian whiskey! With the possible exception of vodka, there is perhaps no liquor category that liquor enthusiasts and bar professionals get less excited about than the whiskies made north of the border.  Every time I brought up the subject, boredom and indifference caked over the listener's face. The best I could hope for, reaction-wise, was a healthy contempt. Don Draper and Nucky Johnson may like Canadian Club, but mixologists and liquor writers do not.

That healthy disregard, however, has led to a lack of knowledge of what's going on in Canada, whisky-wise; or even that anything is going on at all. But, indeed, things are going on. Crown Royal, Canadian Mist, Black Velvet, and Canadian Club are still the stolid, corporate giants that stride the Great White North. But the corporate entities that own the brands are bringing out some newer brands. The Bourbon, rye and Scotch drinker is their open and admitted target. There is much more work to be done before Canada becomes an exciting place from which to import whisky, but these are steps in the right direction.

Here's the article:

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Dutch Kills Crews Gets Into the Ice Business

The ice scene in New York should get pretty interesting in the next few months. Many cocktail bars have made quality ice an issue in recent years. But they've taken on the matter themselves, either finding and creating their own custom ice or buying a Kold Draft machine. But now Sasha Petraske and Richard Boccato and the gang at Dutch Kills have created their very own ice company, hoping to sell ice not just to themselves, but their friends and colleagues' bars. On top of this, I know of another entity, just as well connected in cocktail circles, which will be launching a custom ice company this summer. Ice War!
Here's my New York Times article:
Ice With a Pedigree
By Robert Simoson
Anyone who has patronized Dutch Kills, the cocktail bar in Long Island City, Queens, has probably noticed the showy supporting role ice plays in its drinks. Long frozen spears skewer highballs.
Paperweight-size cubes weigh down rocks glasses. For other drinks, bartenders hack away at microwave-oven-size blocks, hewing custom chunks perfectly suited to each cocktail. Now, the Dutch Kills team will be exporting their vision of frozen water beyond Queens.

Sasha Petraske, Richard Boccato and Ian Present, who own and operate Dutch Kills, along with Zachary Gelnaw-Rubin, who has been a bartender since the saloon opened in May 2009, have together founded Hundredweight Ice and Cocktail Services, with Mr. Boccato, Mr. Present and Mr. Gelnaw-Rubin acting as the operational core of the outfit. Hundredweight will operate out of the same industrial building that Dutch Kills calls home.

“The other side of the building has been vacant since we moved in a couple years ago,” Mr. Boccato said. “We always had our eyes on those rooms.” The company has bought two pricey Clinebell CB300X2 Carving Block Ice Maker machines, with another one on the way. The machines produce two 300-pound blocks of pristine ice every three to four days through a slow-freezing cycle.

While companies that provide ice to bars are hardly a new idea, Hundredweight will focus specifically on high-end, custom ice beloved by the creators of craft cocktails. “I believe we are the first of our ilk in New York to say that this is our m.o.,” he said, “to make this kind of ice for cocktail bars.” Hundredweight’s first customer is, natch, Dutch Kills. The company is also in talks with Milk & Honey, Mr. Petraske’s neo-speakeasy on the Lower East Side, and has reached out to the prominent cocktail consultancies like Contemporary Cocktails and aka wine geek, as well as the mixed drink conventions Tales of the Cocktail, in New Orleans, and Manhattan Cocktail Classic. Mr. Boccato’s newly opened bar, Tribeca Weatherup, which he runs with Kathryn Weatherup and Matthew Maddy, will not be a client; last fall, Mr. Boccato made the bar ice self-sufficient by installing a Clinebell machine.

Without revealing specific numbers, Mr. Boccato said that the prices at Hundredweight would be “extremely reasonable,” and that the company would work with any bar to create ice that suits their purposes and glassware. Want to festoon your drinks with ice spheres or diamonds? It can be done. But if you are having a wedding or a bar mitzvah and are looking for a decorative sculpture, look elsewhere.

“No penguins,” Mr. Boccato said.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Summit Bar Hosts Punch Party to Benefit Japan

Jenny Adams, the ubiquitous Energizer Bunny is liquor journalism, has joined forces with Gianfranco Verga and Gardner Dunn to organize and host "New York Loves Japan - East Village Punch Party," a benefit to aid the citizens of that beleaguered country.

The event will take from from 7 PM to 10 PM Monday, April 11 at the East Village's Summit Bar (Avenue C at 9th Street). A $20 donation will gain you entry to a world of six hand-crafted, Japanese-inspired punches, which will be in handy reach on the bartop, and tunes by DJ Kimiko Masuda. You can refill your cup as often as you like. No word on the makeup of the punches, but they're likely to include some of the following ingredients, which also happen to be sponsors of the event: Pernod Absinthe, Belvedere vodka, Sailor Jerry Rum, Corazon Tequila, Leblon Cachaça, Beefeater Gin and The Tippling Bros.' Classic & Vintage Artisanal Spirits portfolio)

The bar staff will also be mixing up and selling amazing Yamazaki Japanese whiskey cocktails all night long.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Beer At...Twins Pub

From my Eater column:

A Beer At...Twins Pub
Perhaps because it shivers in the western shadow of hulking Madison Square Garden, the block of Ninth Avenue between 33rd and 34th Streets has preserved something of the tang of the city's pre-Giuliani underbelly. The gritty stretch holds not one but two Chinese takeout joints, a money order office, an antiquated office supply shop, a place to repair shoes and a couple dueling Irish pubs. It's a living museum of midtown Manhattan that John McNulty might recognize.
One of these pubs is Twins Pub, which has a couple of immediate things going for it. One is its unique signage, in which "Twins" is spelled out in gigantic letters on both the ground floor and the second floor, the upper version in red neon and curved, stadium-style. It's a hell of a beacon. The other is the unusual name itself. Twins isactually run by twins, a couple of middle-aged men named Pat and Danny. They're the sons of the man that founded Twins some four decades ago.
The place has been renovated since then, I'm sure. It's slick, and spic and span these days, not a stain on the smooth wooden bar, framed pictures of famous sports moments or red-white-and-blue bunting. There's a roomy dining area in back, and further space upstairs. The music is U2, Springsteen, Bon Jovi and nothing unexpected. Not a thing is out of place or broken in, which gives the bar an unexciting, antiseptic feel. But perhaps this is why its patrons like it. (That, and the $3 Harps.) "See you tomorrow," said the bartender to an elderly couple, who had enjoyed their drinks in leisure. Perhaps they come every night.
Given its location, Twins attracts people in transit, on their way to and from Penn Station or a game. ("Stuck in Midtown waiting for the bus with time to kill?" reads a Yelp entry.) Two women wheeled their luggage out of the pub after finished their beers, and then hailed a taxi. A couple stopped in for a nightcap after returning from a Yankees game that had been rained out. This was their point of parting. The man, who wore a bulging black leather jacket that read "World Champions," lived in New Jersey. His girlfriend lived in the Bronx. Very generous of her, I thought, to leave her home borough for 34th Street, just to say goodbye to her man at Twins. They both complained that the Yankees had given in too early to "this kind of rain." The twin on duty agreed. The Yankees, by the way, had played the Twins.
—Robert Simonson

Friday, April 1, 2011

Tuthilltown to Serve Barrel-Aged Manhattans at MCC, Tales

Tuthilltown Spirits—the Hudson Valley whiskey make which has done mightily well by the barrel-aged cocktail trend, selling dozens (hundreds?) of its 3-gallon oak barrels to bartenders and cocktailians looking to put some Negronis and Martinezes in wood—will be serving up some of its own, homemade barrel-aged beauties at the upcoming Manhattan Cocktail Classic and Tales of the Cocktails conventions.

Tuthilltown recently drafted Portland bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler, the father of the barrel-aged trend, to its distillery to prepare several barrels of Manhattans—three casks for MCC use and two for Tales use. A video of the process was shot.

Their recipe for the Manhattan is a bit unorthodox: Tuthilltown corn whiskey, sweet white vermouth and orange bitters. Their figuring the wood will provide the needed color.