Thursday, September 30, 2010

Book Gathers "Left Coast Libations" Between Covers

I remember, a couple Tales of the Cocktails back, being handed a humble little pamphlet called "Left Coast Librations." It was a collection of cocktail recipes from bartenders (and a blogger or two) from San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver.

That tiny booklet has grown up. It is now a full-fledged book, self-published by Ted Munat with Michael Lazar, and sporting an introduction by cocktail journalist Paul Clarke. It is a much grander affair. There are many beautiful photographs by Jenn Farrington of succulent-looking drinks, and a chunk of purple text heralding the Second-Coming-like qualities of each bartender who contributed recipes. Munat does not lack enthusiasm for his subjects.

Among the better known barkeeps tabulated here are Eric Alperin of Los Angeles (The Varnish); Neyah White (until recently of Nopa) and Jon Santer of San Francisco; Jeffrey Morgenthaler of Portland; and Zane Harris, Erik Hakkinen, Jamie Boudreau and Murray Stenson of Seattle. (The former volume included recipes by bloggers. These have been scrapped, unfortunately.)

I enjoy having this book around. Quite frequently, I'll make myself a cocktail that was birthed on the west coast. It helps me keep in touch with what's going on in the bar scene on that side of the country. And, often, the inventions are first rate. Owen Westman's Laphroaig Project is one of my favorite modern cocktails. (I was sorry not to see Westman or his Rickhouse compatriot Erick Castro included in the book. It's my general impression that most of the recipes still harken back to a time a few years ago.)

The book has given me the chance to try out a few other drinks I've heard tell about, but haven't had the chance to make. Among the most storied concoctions here: Morgenthaler's Richmond Gimlet, which sort of lives where the Gin Fizz meets the Mojito; Jon Santer's The Revolver, an addictive Bourbon Manhattan made with Tia Maria instead of Vermouth; and Marco Dionysos' Chartreuse Swizzle, which might as well be San Francisco's official drink.

I also whipped up Stenson's lovely Stephan's Sour, a Gin Fizz with celery bitters; Boudreau's Pax Sax Sarax, a heady mix of Highland single malt Scotch, Cherry Heering and Absinthe that really does need the garnish of three cherries like Jamie says it does; Zane Harris' Charlie's Vacation, a dreamy, frothy gin egg drink given color by Campari; Lance Mayhew's slightly too sweet The Swafford, made of rye, applejack, maraschino and Chartreuse; and White's 606, a strong mix of genever, sweet vermouth and Fernet Branca which, if it does not exactly sweet-talk you, certainly commands attention.

There are certain cocktails in this book which, I'm afraid, I'll probably never going to make, because they require me to make, among other things, pear foam, roasted pineapple feathers, kumquat marmalade, lavender-infused honey syrup, banana-chip-infused rum and lime-whey mixture. Honestly guys, this is a book for the home drink enthusiast. Leave those drink behind the bar, where they belong. Simple does it.

Other things the book tells us about west coast bartenders: they love gin, Chartreuse, the taste of celery, Sherry, Ramazotti, and like to support local distillers like Oregon's Clear Creek. I hope soon I can experience many of these biases, and the bartenders who hold them, in person.

Mad Men and Drinking, Season Four, Episode 10: Don Needs a Drink!

And he deserves one! When Draper learned that the Feds were looking into his background after SCDP client North American Aviation requested a security check, he reached right for the Canadian Club, and threw a belt back, despite having backed off the juice all summer 1965. He then had a panic attack, threw up, confessed his past to new squeeze Faye, and leaned on Pete Campbell, of all people, to make it right.

But, oh, how the trouble rained down on all of SCDP in "Hands and Knees," episode 10 of season four. Roger and Joan's impromptu tryst of episode 9 resulted in an unwanted pregnancy, one the couple talked over at the Tip Toe Inn over a Bloody Mary (Joan) and Gibson (Roger). Roger was dealt a second blow when Lucky Strike, personified by the sleezeball bully Lee Garner, Jr., and the agency's biggest account by far, pulled the plug after 30 years of business. Roger got so upset he pounded the restaurant table and upended a couple glasses of Cognac. And Lane Pryce, hoping to see his son from London, was instead greeted by his brutal father, who made his argument that Lane should return home to his family with the business end of his cane, knocking young Pryce to the floor. Remember, dad's the man Lane described in episode 3 as "the kind of alcoholic who thinks he's a collector." It couldn't have helped matters that Lane is now dating a black waitress at the Playboy Club, where he likes to order Whiskey Sours. (Dad, ever the collector of exotic foreign liquors, ordered Bourbon.)

When Roger finally has the guts to tell the partners at the firm that Lucky is gone, they'll all need a stiff drink.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Gruaud Larose Through the Decades

It never ceases to amaze me how deep the cellars owned by members of the Wine Media Guild go, and how generous those members are with their holdings.

Every year, the group, to which I belong, puts together a thrilling vertical tasting of an important, historical wine house, usually in Bordeaux. This year, it was Chateau Gruaud Larose, the highly esteemed second growth known for its massive power. The set line-up was impressive enough, with vintages from 2008 back to 1989. But members also contributed private bottles containing juice from 2000, 1990, 1986, 1982, 1975, 1971 and 1970. There were some vintages that not even David Launay, the general manager of the estate, and the Guild's guest, had tasted. Every time I thought I had sampled everything, someone passed by with a new bottle saying "I brought this from home." (Most of the donated bottles came from one member who had been collecting Gruaud Larose for years.)

The standouts for me (and others) were the 2000 and the 1970. The 2000 vintage, of course, has been widely heralded, and it was nice to see the wine fulfill that promise. It had a wonderful stinky, barnyard nose (something I detected on many of the older Gruauds) and was rich and chewy, with lovely fruit.

The 1970, meanwhile, had people swooning all over the place, going to their happy Bordeaux place. "This is what I mean when I say I like Bordeaux," said one. More magenta that red, it had a beautiful, nuanced barnyard aroma, as complex and multi-layed as you like, and was elegant and plush on the tongue. The fruit was still robust, the tannins relaxed and the structure impeccable, firm yet loose. Funny how different it was from the 1971, which was like a paler, lightweight version of the 1970, a disappointment. The 1986 has been praised by Parker and one can see why. It's a very good wine, but one that is easy to like, quite less subtle than 1970. Of the more recent vintages, the 2008 had a lot going for it, big tannins, full dark fruit. It could go far.

Gruaud is about two-thirds Cabernet Sauvignon, the rest being a quartet Merlot and a little Petit Verdot. Launay said the chateau was busy planting more Cabernet, ripping out Merlot, because it was determined that Cabernet would grow better on the soil in question.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Royalton's Forty Four Bar to Open Oct. 1

After a delay of a couple weeks, in which bartenders were brought up to speed and menus were tinkered with, Forty Four, the reincarnation of the lobby bar at midtown Manhattan's Royalton Hotel, will open for business.

Expect to see one or more of the serious-looking, ice-kicking dudes (and dudette) to the right on hand this weekend. They make up The Cocktail Collective, the group that was put together in the wake of this year's Tales of the Cocktail to created Forty Four's menu. As reported earlier, they Richard Boccato from Dutch Kills in New York City (the man holding the block of ice); John Lermayer from the Florida Room in Miami Beach, and Woodward in Boston (shaker in hand); Simon Ford, a former London bartender, and now a global cocktail ambassador employed by Pernod Ricard USA (the man top right who looks like he just got off a cross-country flight, which he probably did); Willy Shine, one of the founders of Contemporary Cocktails, a prominent cocktail consultancy based in New York City (saw in hand, looking like a butcher); Misty Kalkofen, who tends bar at Drink in Boston (guess); and Eric Alperin, head bartender at the Varnish in Los Angeles (tall and vested).

That's one cool photo. Some sort of theme song, along the lines "The Magnificent Seven," should play whenever those guys enter the room.

The menu will feature classic drinks created at great hotels of the past, some served up classically, some with a modern twist.

Is Grant Achatz Reading Cocktail Blogs?

Is Grant Achatz—culinary wizard of Aviary, possible best chef in America, would-be molecular cocktail king—reading cocktail blogs?

After I heard he and Craig Schoettler had created something called Old Fashioned in the Rocks, I grew suspicious. The drink places the iconic ingredients of an Old Fashioned (whiskey, water, sugar, bitters) inside an egg-shaped piece of the ice. The orb is created by filling water balloons with water and then putting them in a device called a blast chiller, which causes the outer layer of the water to freeze before the inside, leaving a cavity inside. The drinker will have to crack the ice, like an egg, in order to get at the booze.

No one's done exactly this before, I grant you. But the water-balloon trick has been around for a couple years, blogged first (as far as I know) in 2009 by San Francisco-based cocktail blogger Camper English, and, later, and independently, by yours truly. (I did not know that English had hatched the idea before me until after I blogged about my water balloons.)

I first began freezing water balloons as an inexpensive way of created large, slow-melting, and attractive ice forms to keep sipping drinks like the Old Fashioned and Sazerac cool for a long time. Most haute cocktail bars have a Kold-Draft machine, or one of these pricey items to do this job. And I openly pondered if bars would take up the balloon idea, or if it would be too low class for them. Well, if its' good enough for Grant Achatz...

Courvoisier Introduces First Cognacs With Age Statements

Courvoisier Cognac is getting all Scotch-y on us.

Beginning on Oct. 1, the brandy giant with release two new Cognacs, both with age statements on the bottle. One is a 12-year-old, the other a 21-year-old. Age statements are common in the world of Scotch and, less so, in Bourbon. But Cognac has long relied on its age-old system of categorization in which VS means a brandy aged two years or more; VSOP means four years; and XO means six.

However, Courvoisier believes, probably correctly, that these designations are confusing to the average American. So, 25 years ago, it decided to put down some brandy with the idea of bottling it with age statements. The 12 and the 21 will not be sold in France.

Black Tot Day, 40 Years On

Every new liquor released these days comes wrapped in a yarn. Black Tot Rum has one of the best around. I've tasted this twice, always in miniscule amounts, of course, given its scarcity and price. It was not what I expected (but, then, what could I expect, having no experience of 40-year-old Navy rum?), but it was singular. Those tiny tastes will have to last me. $1,000 to spare I have not. From the Times:

40 Years After the Royal Navy’s Last Call, Its Rum Is for SaleBy ROBERT SIMONSON
By Robert Simonson
Starting this week, diners at Greenwich Village’s Minetta Tavern can drink like a sailor. But they’ll have to spend like a sailor to do so.
Minetta Tavern recently acquired four bottles of what is being billed as Black Tot Rum. Black Tot Day was the name attached by Royal Navy men to the dark date of July 31, 1970, when British sailors were accorded their final daily “tot,” or ration, of rum. The tradition went back centuries, but was discontinued as it fell out of favor with a more censorious public, as well as the crewmen themselves. Sailors wore black armbands when the sun rose on that last day of on-deck drinking. On the H.M.S. Fife, docked in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, there was a 21-gun salute, according to Wayne Curtis’s history, “And a Bottle of Rum.”

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Beer At...Velvet Lounge

I like cigars. I like Scotch. Both are wonderful, dignified indulgences, and never vulgar. Cigar bars that serve Scotch, however, are seldom wonderful or dignified, and always vulgar. Why?

A Beer At...Velvet Lounge
Recently, a friend accused me of lately being a little too good to myself with this column. Sure, I was visiting dives, but they were "really good dives." She had a point. Dark, dank joints like Milano's, Jackie's Fifth Amendment and the Grassroots Tavern make for high-end slumming. I hadn't been to a bar that made me want to take my life since visiting that castle of Murray Hill douchbaggery, Tonic East.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Hurricane Club's Cocktail Menu Is By the Numbers

The cocktail menu at the Hurricane Club, the new midtown edition to the ongoing tiki bar craze, is by the numbers.

Seriously. Nearly every drink is not named, but numbered. You could order the #31 frozen cocktail (mandarin and liquorice root II) or the #7 shot (gold tequila, muddled peppadew peppers & Asian-pepper syryp). The drinks are divided into categories. There's the expected "Frozen" (all Pisco-based) and "Martinis" (mainly vodka) sections; the seemingly Jimmy Buffett-inspired "Boat Drinks" section; "Voyages" ("Exotic ingredients, inspired by different ports of call"); "In the Shell" (drinks served in coconuts, pepper shells and hollowed-out melons and pineapples; "To Share" ("Most stylish way for your group to enjoy our spirits"); and "Club Service" ("A gentleman's way to enjoy a cocktail").

The inclusion of a "Shots" section will tell the experienced drinker that they're not in haute cocktail country here, as will the reliance on mainstream liquor brands like Ketel One, Bombay Sapphire, Patron and Knob Creek. Prices run about $8 to $15 for individual drinks. (Picture courtesy of Daily Candy)

Official Drinking Day du Jour: International Grenach Day

Now, here's something different.

Usually, the hokey world of "official" liquor days is dominated by spirits and cocktails. But here's one that celebrates a specific kind of wine: Grenache. Sept. 24 will be International Grenache Day, a whole day in honor of the world’s most widely planted red grape.

And, for once, we know who came up with the idea for the holiday. It originated at the First International Grenache Symposium in June in the Southern Rhone. "Over 250 top Grenache producers, journalists, and retailers from 23 countries pledged to demand that their local restaurants, retailers, friends and acquaintances make September 24th the day to celebrate Grenache each year," reads a press release. (So, this is a holiday by virtue of a handful of people simply demanding it be?)  

The aim of the day "is to create a wave of familiarity and interest so that one day people will walk into their favourite bar or restaurant and ask for a ‘Glass of Grenache’ as they do currently with Pinot Grigio or Merlot." Good luck with that.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Christian Brothers Comes Out with Honey-Infused Brandy

Taking a page from the Bourbon industry, which has struck gold with products like American Honey and Evan Williams Honey Reserve, Christian Brothers has come out with the first American honey-infused brandy. Hell, probably the world's first honey-infused brandy.

It's called CB Honey and was launched in 11 markets—mainly in the so-called "brandy belt" of the upper, northern Midwest—on Sept. 1.

"One way the cocktail community has influenced brandy is the use and introduction of honey as an ingredient," said Josh Hafer of Heaven Hill, which owns Christian Brothers. "You see it in bourbon.

"We're going to focus on the traditional brandy drinker," he added. "We're going to focus on the brandy belt. But we also think there's a lot of potential in the urban market. As well the young consumer, who may not take that step into the brandy category, but may with a sweeter, easier to drink product." 

Hafer did not say it, but undoubtably Christian Brothers hopes to bring more women into the world of brandy, just as the honey-infused bourbons have done for that brown spirit. It can't hurt matters that CB Honey clocks in at a low 70 proof.

A Little 21-Year-Old Birthday Riesling

About a week ago, the day after my birthday, I was preparing dinner and thinking, quite selfishly, that not enough had been done to celebrate my natal day. So I walked back to my teeny "cellar" and looked over the selections, seeing if one was ripe for the plucking. I had been worried about a 1989 Bert Simon riesling for a number of months. Wines from Simon from that year were particularly praised. I didn't want it to go south and start to fade, all because I hesitated in breaking it open. A recent call to the store where I bought it, Crush, assured me the wine, a Serrig Wurtzberg Auslese, was probably at its peak, and well worth sacrificing. So in the fridge it went to chill.

I wish I had more than one of those Simon '89s. Was a delish treat from top to bottom it was. And believe me, I drank it top to bottom in one evening. It wasn't hard. The alcohol was only 10%. But beyond that, the flavor made it impossible to put down. Honey, ripe orange and tangerine and clementine, orange blossoms, more honey, a little lick of diesel at the end, and a dusty edging of slate. And an afterthought of apple pie.

The firm structure and good acidity all served to spotlight those wonderful fruit flavors. There was no flabbiness to the wine. It was in its prime. Fresh. The color alone was a pleasure: a sunny yellow-tangerine hue.

I went to Crush the following week in hopes of finding another bottle. No dice. But I did pick up four other rieslings to lay down and take the Simon's place. Future birthdays must be thought of.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mad Men and Drinking, Season Four, Episode 9: French Toast à la Sally Draper

Not much interesting drinking going on in "The Beautiful Girls," episode nine of season four of "Mad Men," which focuses on the disappointing and frustrating choices women had to make in 1965. Among those women—Peggy and Joan, of course; but also Don Draper's latest squeeze, career gal Dr. Faye Miller; increasingly interesting, bird-like, reception desk secretary Megan; and poor old Ida Blankenship, who, after filling in her last crossword puzzle, takes a nose dive into her desk—is none other that little Sally Draper. Sally's not happy at home with brittle Betty, we know, so she hops the train, sans moolah, to visit dear old dad.

The Sipping News

Cocktails boasting lower alcohol contents are now trendy, sez the San Francisco Chronicle. If true, I am in favor of this trend. [SFC]

Jason Wilson of the Washington Post likes the Alaska cocktail, which seems to be experiencing a little revival lately. Me, I've never taken to this particular concoction. [WP]

Burgundy man Daniel Johnnes has begun to import Bordeaux. [Dr. Vino]

Eric Asimov writes about the wonderful winemaker Josko Gravner, master of weird aged white wines, loved by some, puzzled over by many. [NYT]

Bartenders on the Move: Noted mixologist Toby Cecchini is no longer putting in Friday shifts at Red Hook's Fort Defiance.

Owen Westman Elaborates on Plans for Melbourne Future

Owen Westman, who has left San Francisco's vaunted cocktail bar Rickhouse to return to his native Melbourne, Australia, has let out a bit more information on the bar he'll be running half way across the world. 

Westman—author of one of my favorites cocktails, the Laphroaig Project—and two partners have taken ownership of the Collection Lounge on Bridge Road in Richmond, a suburb of Melbourne. Westman describes it as "a busy little cafe and shopping area and the bar has been a local hotspot for about 10 years. Small plates and cocktails is what they specialize in."

"I will be working with my business partners and some friends to breathe some new life into the food and beverage program they have in place," he continued. "Also, with more space available in the building we hope to expand it a little as well however we have not decided what this will entail just yet."

Westman previously said the cocktail list will draw on his experience at Bourbon & Branch, Rickhouse and other bars he's visited throughout the world. (He calls Melbourne "by far the most cocktail and food forward city in Australia."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Barrel Aged Cocktails Made at Home

Writing about barrel-aged cocktails as much as I have over the past few months, it dawned on my this summer that, though it sounds like a complex undertaking, making such a concoction is actually something anyone can try at home. All you need is a barrel and a lot of liquor.

Everyone I knew who was doing it seemed to be using barrels from Tuthilltown in the Hudson Valley. So I contacted the distillery and acquired a three-gallon barrel—which is about the sweetest little thing you ever saw. Adorable baby barrel. I then contacted Jeffrey Morgenthaler, the Portland bartender who got this trend rolling when he began selling barrel-aged cocktails at Clyde Common last fall, and then reported on his experience on his blog. I asked him what cocktail a novice should start with, and he named the Negroni. I basically followed his recipe, using Beefeater gin, Cinzano sweet vermouth and, of course, Campari. I had been leaning toward Dolin, since I like the stuff. But Morgenthaler recommended Cinzano for "the classic Italian flavor."

Friday, September 17, 2010

Egg Creams on the Rise

When I spot a drink trend, I spot a drink trend.

A while back, I noticed that egg creams were popping up on the menus at hip places like the Brooklyn Farmacy, Fort Defiance and Henry Public. I suggested a story of the phenom to Edible Brooklyn, which not only said yes, but asked for two versions: one on the egg cream scene in Manhattan (old school) and one on Brooklyn (new school). The Manhattan piece came out Sept. 1, and this week the Brookyn article came out. And no sooner does it hit the stands than new items about yet more new egg cream purveyors, like this and this, crop up.

Here's the article:

Summit Bar Sells City's First Barrel-Aged Cocktail

In a come-from-behind surprise, Gregory Seider's Lower East Side joint Summit Bar has become the first bar in New York to serve an example of the growing national trend known as barrel-aged cocktails. This week, Seider started pouring Lions in London (a variation on the Negroni), which he had been aging in barrel for the past couple months.

Previously, it had seemed that Dram in Williamsburg would be the break-out New York bar for the new technique, which was invented by bartender Jeffrey Morganthaler in Portland, Oregon. But the barrel Dram owner Tom Chadwick told me that the cask he was aging his Martinez cocktails in turned out to have a leak. So he had to start over. He hopes to start served the delicacy in early October.

Meanwhile, this journalist has started aging Negronis at home. More about that in a future post.

UPDATE: Went to tried it. Very good. As with my previous barrel-aged cocktail experiences, it's a well integrated, smooth and deep drink. A downside, someone might argue, is that the cocktail lacks the original spark of the involved liquors. The gin and Campari have been tamed and soothed. Still, if you want a regular Negroni, have one. If you want this, have this.

One warning: the Summit aged Lions in London is $18! Since it contains that same liquors as the regular Lions in London, and the barrel cost is negligible over time, you're paying for scarcity here. There are only so many of the drinks to go around until a new barrel is ready.

The bartender told me Seider is readying an entire line of aged cocktails.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Signage Reveal: Julie Reiner New SoHo Bar Lani Kai

I blew the chance to get an early look at Julie Reiner's new Hawaiian-themed cocktail bar Lani Kai last night (there was a Balvenie tasting event there but no babysitter here). When I arrived, the event was long over. But the trip wasn't worthless. I caught a glimpse of the nice signage, and a peek at the inside, where, on the ground floor, there are roomy leather booths, palm-ish plants and a understatedly tropical decor.

Royalton's Forty Four Bar Reveals Debut Cocktail Menu

The six-person "Cocktail Collective," put together by the Royalton Hotel to create a cocktail program for the lobby bar, called Forty Four, has done it work. 

The members—Richard Boccato from Dutch Kills and Painkiller in New York City; John Lermayer from the Florida Room in Miami Beach, and Woodward in Boston; Simon Ford, a former London bartender, and now a global cocktail ambassador employed by Pernod Ricard USA; Willy Shine, one of the founders of Contemporary Cocktails, a prominent cocktail consultancy based in New York City; Misty Kalkofen, who tends bar at Drink in Boston; and Eric Alperin, head bartender at the Varnish in Los Angeles—put their heads together over the past month and came up with a menu that evokes the great hotel bars of yesterday (and some of today).

It's divided into classic cocktails and Cocktail Collective originals, and there is a punch program as well. The classics include drinks that made their debut at the Savoy Hotel in London, the Hotel Nacional in Havana, the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, the Raffles Hotel in Singapore and the Metropolitan Hotel in New York (which sat just a couple blocks away from the Royalton, on 42nd St.)

Here are some of the originals: 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Beer Gardens Get an APP

I've love to say the new iPhone APP for New York beer gardens is the direct result of my August NYT round-up of Gotham gardens. But, alas, the creators started working on the thing in June.

Beer Garden Radar
 By Robert Simonson
It seems as if beer gardens are opening around every corner of New York. Now there’s a iPhone app to make sure you don’t miss that turn.
Beer Gardens NYC leads you to 50 different beer gardens, listed by borough, neighborhood, beers and price range. The guide is the work of Raj Moorjani, the owner of the Forest Hills-based Web technology firm Calpaq Interactive, and Hope Tarr, a novelist and travel writer. The couple hatched the idea in June when they were enjoying a couple of frosty ones at Goods, a restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with outdoor seating that serves burgers and dogs out of an Airstream trailer.
“It had just opened that day,” recalled Ms. Tarr. “It was so pleasant. I love outdoor dining spaces anyways. We were just chatting and had a eureka moment.”
Not much later — after determining that there was not yet a beer garden app for New York (the only one they found was for Munich) — they began putting together Beer Gardens NYC. Research was arduous: For five consecutive weekends, Ms. Tarr and Mr. Moorjani did nothing but visit beer gardens. “We went to 11 in one day,” recalled Ms. Tarr. “We did a lot of the information collection during the World Cup, so we got a good sense of the outdoor space because everyone was inside watching the games.”
The result includes descriptions, photos and videos of 50 New York beer gardens, including the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden in Astoria, Queens; theRadegast Hall and Biergarten in Williamsburg; the Vietnamese beer garden Bia on the Lower East Side; and the newly opened Bier International in Harlem. “The fun thing about this is the diversity of the gardens,” Ms. Tarr said. “You can pretty much find a beer garden for any tastes.” The app, which costs $1.99, also includes a directory of more than 900 beers, searchable by venue and brand, just in case a user is interested in locating not a particular restaurant, but a particular draft. Ms. Tarr and Mr. Moorjani are already considering creating similar sudsy guides to other American cities.
While it’s true that the days are starting to get nippy, making beer gardens less attractive, Ms. Tarr points out that many of the city’s gardens are attached to indoor spaces. Also, fall and beer do go together in one big way.
“We timed it to come out in plenty of time for Oktoberfest,” she said.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mad Men and Drinking, Season Four, Episode 8: Half on the Wagon

Don Draper is "The Summer Man," as episode eight of season four of "Mad Men" is called, and the Summer Man is cutting back of the booze and getting healthy, in mind and body.

The episode begins with Don diving into a brightly lit pool at the New York Athletic Club, about the cleanest, most sunlit and most hopeful opening shot we've seen this season. He has hacking fits at the end of each lap, sure, and is winded in the locker room, but he's trying. "They say, if you have to cut back on your drinking, you have a drinking problem," he writes, breaking in his new journal, toning up his muddled mind at the same time he retrieves his body from the gutter. Throughout this season, Don has witnessed, with reticence, the coming openness of the new generation. Everyone's talking about themselves! He hates it, but he knows it's something he's got to sample, or go down emotionally for the last time.

He writes at a table in his apartment, which—amazing—has windows! Who knew? It's been a dank hole up until now. But he's pushed the curtains back to reveal a near wall of window. And he's eating finally, not vomiting. Dinty Moore from a can. He drinks while he writes, not a Mailer-like shot of whiskey, but a Bud. Don's watching his consumption. After an unsettling phone call, he stares almost with fear at the drink cart in his office, and them barks to Miss Blankenship to fetch him more coffee. When the old battle-ax carts four bottles of Canadian Club to his office, he tells her to bring them back to the store room. ("I'm set," he says, to which Blankenship smartly retorts, "And then you're not.") He refuses a second glass of Champagne while on a date at Barbetta with the blank-ish Bethany (time to give this character the hook), and opts for a dignified glass of Chianti later in the episode while dining with Dr. Faye Miller, who's liking the newly sober Don Draper.

What's more, Draper seems to understand what happens when he does drink. In his office during a meeting, he watches closely as Peggy and Ken pour out the Canadian Club. "People are always drinking around here," he suddenly seems to realize. When he takes a wary sip, he recedes from the camera, and his officemates drift from him, in a neat "Vertigo"-like Hitchcock trick. You drink and reality retreats. That's probably what he's always liked about it. But now, maybe that's not such a good thing.

Meanwhile, his ex-wife Betty's still got the drinking problem that Don probably fostered in her. When she and new husband Henry Francis bump into Don and Bethany at Barbetta, Betty hits the Gimlets pretty hard. (Nice to see this still-existent Italian Midtown restaurant make an appearance. Don takes Bethany to the best places. First Jimmy's La Grange, then Benihana, now Barbetta),

At the office, vodka remains the drink of young idiots (as it still is today). Looking for an angle on a Mountain Dew campaign, Peggy charges the creative crew to come up with three Mountain Dew cocktails made up of at least three ingredients. Not two. "You need three ingredients for a cocktail," said Peggy. "Vodka and Mountain Dew is an emergency."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Roberta's First Cocktail Menu

Finally got ahold of the new cocktail list at Roberta's, the hip pizzeria out Bushwick way. Here it is:

Greg’s Girlfriend 8
tito’s handmade vodka, helios, raspberries, lime, black pepper

Old Fashioned 9
rebel yell bourbon, orange, maraschino cherry, angostura bitters

Summer Bummer 10
Cava Rosat, fresh mint lemonade

Natur 10
plymouth gin, campari, simple syrup, lime, soda

El Ulises 11
tequilador reposado, lime, grand marnier, habañero jelly

Moscow Mule 11
tito’s handmade vodka, regatta ginger beer, fresh ginger, lime

‘Bertini 11
farmer’s organic gin, garden lemon balm

White City 11
crop organic cucumber vodka, green chartreuse, grapefruit

American Nightmare 12
booker’s bourbon, vergano americano, lemon, clove, orange bitters

Saint Michael 12
hendricks gin, st germain, yellow chartreuse, brooklyn honey & pollen, lemon juice, angostura bitters

The Relationship Between Cocktails and Pork

The symbiotic relationship between the cocktail community and pork is one that's been on my mind for some time—so much so that I wrote a little piece about the subject for Tasting Table today.

In case you haven't noticed, for cocktailians, pork isn't the Other White Meat. It's the Only White Meat.

Glance at the bar bites menu at any speakeasy in New York or Brooklyn, and you'll find piggy little treats near the top of the list. East Village's PDT has a culinary relationship with neighboring frankfurter innovator Crif Dogs. Nearby Death & Co. and tequila-focused Mayahuel both serve up a delectable pork belly. So does Williamsburg's Rye. Red Hook's Fort Defiance offers a pork loin with roasted potatoes. And Brooklyn's Clover Club, which is famous for its brunchtime bacon tasting, has just reintroduced what may be the best BLT in the city to its summertime menu. (Chef Craig Rivard only serves it when tomatoes are in season.)

I asked Clover Club owner Julie Reiner, and she said the connection is all a matter of good taste. "I think that most people who consider themselves to be cocktailians also consider themselves to be foodies," she said, "and all foodies love pork!"

Mixologists love it so much they even put it in their drinks. Don Lee's bacon-fat-washed Benton's Old Fashioned (using a technique learned from Eben Freeman) is legend by now. Lesser known, but just as good is the Serrano-ham-washed Brandy Alexander of Clif Travers at Williamsburg's Bar Celona. "All that beautiful fat was being thrown away so I figured I should try using it," explained Travers. "I just pay attention to my chefs and use their leftovers."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Andaz Fifth Avenue Reveals Cocktail Menu

The Andaz Fifth Avenue hotel bar still doesn't have a name. But it has a drink menu, put together by the estimable crew at Alcemy Consulting. And it has an opening date, Sept. 20. Given the inventive work Alchemy did with the Andaz downtown, I'm looking for for the service here. Below is the cocktail menu.

Some initial impressions: Nice to see Pimm's used in the signature drink, as this stuff doesn't get much play outside the Pimm's Cup (also on the menu; somebody likes Pimm's at Alchemy); interesting choice in using Wisconsin's Death's Door Gin for the Gimlet and Martini; always a pleasure to see Cocchi Americano on the menu; plenty of amari in play, and lots of variety in the vermouth department; the division of drinks into "shaken" and "stirred" both shows an authoritative stand on the cocktails in question, and making choosing a drink easier for the customer.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Mount Gay Is Latest to Revamp Bottle

Nobody, it seems, wants to look like old fogey on the back bar. With new products sporting sleek packaging arriving every day, all the old standard booze brands are rethinking their bottles. And they all seem to want to look like, well, Scotch. Take the Mount Gay rum redesign. If that doesn't look like a bottle of single malt, I don't know what.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mad Men and Drinking, Season Four, Episode 7: Misery Loves Company

I have noticed that in the current season of "Mad Men," as Don Draper gets more profligate in his draining of bottles, the younger members of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce have been quietly taking note and cutting back. Eager accounts man Pete Campbell used to sip on a whiskey regularly in an effort to be one of the big boys. On a recent episode, though, he was drinking an orange soda. And Peggy Olson often accepts drinks from Don and then puts them down without sipping from them. Times are changing. It's 1965. Don and Roger's drinking habits are starting to be seen as antiquated and old hat.

Also of the old school: Duck Phillips, who make a reappearance in the episode titled "The Suitcase," and is not at his best. He's fallen off the wagon again. We first see him in his darkened apartment (can bachelors not find flats with eastern exposure in 1960s Manhattan?), spilling Cutty Sark over himself. Later, he gets in a drunken brawl with the equally soused Don, who's just regurgitated the ample portion of whiskey he's ingested over the day.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Sipping News

Eben Freeman has become "director of bar operations and innovation" at Michael White's Altamarea group. Nice to see Freeman finally land a new place in New York's bar world. He left his previous perch, Tailor, last year. [TONY via Eater]

Is tequila the new vodka? Or: The "Entourage" Effect. [Washington Post]

New York bars are spiking their milkshakes with liquor. [NYT]

More on the ongoing Tiki bar revival, including news of the coming Hurricane Club in Manhattan. [NYT]

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Beer At...Milano's

One reason I enjoy doing the "A Beer At..." column is that it causing me to enter historic bars that I didn't know existed. Certainly, I knew Milano's on Houston was there. I walked by it a million times. I did not know it had been a bar since 1880 and had the architecture to prove it.

A Beer At....Milano's
Milano's is a sliver of a bar wedged into one of the last blocks on Houston Street that looks like New York. Whole Foods is to the east, a BP gas station to the west. The enormous Amsterdam Billiards is across the street. Milano's is a crack of darkness in their modern, roomy, shiny world of clean convenience. 

The Sipping News

An argument in favor of bartender copywriting cocktails and techniques as intellectual property, which may be one of the most unenforceable ideas I've ever heard of. Thankfully, legally, this is impossible. I've always thought the cocktail world's willingness to share recipes and idea was always one of its most likable and noble aspect. [The Atlantic]

There seem to have been a rash of high profile bartender departures in recent months. The latest include Owen Westman, who will leave the San Francisco bar Rickhouse to open his own place all the way over in Melbourne. Westman, who was born in Melbourne,  couldn't say where the bar is or what its name will be (details are still being finalized). But the cocktail list will draw on his experience at Bourbon & Branch, Rickhouse and other bars he's visited throughout the world. (Rickhouse recently lost Erick Castro to Pernod.) He calls Melbourne "by far the most cocktail and food forward city in Australia." Meanwhile,  Nico de Soto is leaving Dram in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to go to London to work at a London branch of Paris' Experimental Cocktail Club.

Toward a lighter, and greener, Champagne bottle. [NY Times]

A lengthy piece on the legendary Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. [Wine Enthusiast]

"Alcohol is not a flavor," says John Ragan, sommelier at Eleven Madison Park. Agreed! [Grub Street]

Roberta's Begins Serving Cocktails

I went to Roberta's, the ultra-hip pizza joint in Bushwick, this week and had me a cocktail. This, I was told by a friend who goes regularly, is a new development. In the past Roberta's only served beer and wine.

The list is about ten drinks long, with prices ranging from $9 to $12. The drinks are inventive, perhaps to a fault. I had something called Saint Michael—Hendrink's Gin, St. Germain, yellow Chartreuse, honey. Good, though the Hendrick's and St. Germain bullied the flavor profile. What made me order it, however, was the inclusion of bee pollen in the ingredient list. It floated there on the surface of the cocktail, like freshly ground black pepper. This is the first I've encountered pollen as a cocktail element, though I understand certain bars have experimented with it. And I must say it added to the drink.  Given the nature of Roberta's, I'm guessing it came from bees in their own garden out back.

I'll print the list as soon as I get it.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Corn Harvest Arrives at PDT

For some time now, I listed the Imperial Silver Corn Fizz under the Damn Good Cocktails column to the right. Which has been rather cruel of me, since you couldn't order the damn thing anywhere in the country.

That changed on Aug. 30, when Jim Meehan, bar master at PDT, and author of the drink, added to the fizz to the PDT menu.

I was lucky enough to try the cocktail on it's initial voyage, at a cocktail dinner in fall 2009. It is a combination of homemade corn water, whiskey, honey syrup, champagne and egg white, shaken into a frothy concoction that is pale yellow at bottom, white on top. As I wrote then, if there was such a thing as creamed corn whiskey, it might taste like this lightly sweet, absolutely unusual drink.

Meehan has tweaked it a bit. He switched from Maker's Mark to George Dickel, which is not a small thing, since we're talking Tennessee Whiskey now, not Bourbon. But I like Dickel better anyway. So good.

So go and try it and see if you don't agree with me. Enjoy the fruits of the harvest.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Barrel-Aged Aged Cocktail Trend Will Not Be Stopped

First Portland, then New York and Madison, and now Boston. Barrel-aged cocktails are spreading across the nation at wildfire speed.

This fall, Hugh Reynolds, bar manager at Temple Bar in Cambridge, MA, will add whiskey barrel-aged Negronis to his menu. As with every other bar that's trying this trick, he got his mini-barrels from New York's Tuthilltown Distillery, which has parlayed this trend into a nice sideline.

Reynolds got the idea from Portland, Oregon, bartender Jeffrey Morganthaler, who was inspired by Tony Conigliaro in London, who ages Manhattans in glass bottles for up to five years. (The process is considerably faster in wood.) Morganthaler's concoctions have been selling like hotcakes since he introduced them last fall. Since then, the notion has been latched onto by a growing number of edgy, and not so edgy, cocktail bars.

Reynolds mixes up his Negronis using local Berkshire Mountain Distillery’s Ethereal Gin (a small-batch gin with varying levels of botanicals like rose petals and orange peel in each batch), Campari and Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth. He then lets the cocktail age in the barrels for six weeks. Next up for the treatment is a rum cocktail called the Cherry Valance, made of Appleton Estate Rum, Cherry Heering and chocolate bitters.

Brooklyn Farmacy to Roll of Egg Cream Cart at Brooklyn Flea

Pete Freeman, owner of Carroll Gardens' retro soda fountain Brooklyn Farmacy, and all-around nouveau evangelist of the egg cream, is not content to merely serve the frothy, old-school treats inside his Brooklyn shop. He's taking his act on the road.

Freeman told me that a Brooklyn Farmacy egg cream cart will soon make its debut at the Brooklyn Flea—maybe as early as this weekend! The wheeled contraction will be equipped with a couple seltzer spigots and a cooling system that will keeping all the ingredients—seltzer, milk, syrup—icy cold.

The cart is actually the property of Ron Starman, a third-generation seltzer man who set up Freeman's seltzer system at the Farmacy. In the past Starman had manned the cart himself. Freeman hopes to have a fleet of carts in the future, so that Brooklyn kids may never lack for egg creams.