Friday, May 20, 2011

How About a Nice Swedish Punsch?

Whenever importer Eric Seed hits town, you can pretty much bet he has something new and great up his sleeve. Recently, it was the first commercially sold Swedish Punsch to see these shores in half a century. Here's the item I wrote about it for the Times:
How About a Nice Swedish Punsch?
By Robert Simonson
The passion for resurrecting pre-Prohibition cocktails has helped fetch out of history’s dustbin several forgotten elixirs, including Crème Yvette, allspice dram, orange bitters and, most famously, absinthe. The latest one to be rehabilitated is Swedish punsch. Beginning this summer, the sweet liqueur will return to liquor stores courtesy of Eric Seed, the owner of Haus Alpenz, a Minnesota-based importing company that specializes in unique and arcane liquors.
Mr. Seed was the logical candidate for the job. The base spirit of Swedish punsch is Batavia arrack, the southeastern Asian liquor derived from sugar cane and red rice. This, too, was lost to Americans, until Mr. Seed began importing it a few years ago.
“We knew Swedish punsch would eventually come back as long as Batavia Arrack existed,” said Ted Haigh, a noted cocktail historian. (Mr. Haigh likes Swedish punsch so much his nickname is “Dr. Cocktail,” the name of the best known punsch concoction.)
The liqueur — which also contains rum, sugar and spices — dates from Sweden’s exploring days. “The tradition goes back to the Swedish East India Company,” Mr. Seed said. “To mollify the sailors on board the ships, they let them dive into the Batavia arrack that they brought back from the East Indies. They would mix that with sugar and maybe a touch of the spice, and that grog they called their punch.”
Sometime in the 19th century, Swedish punsch was bottled. “Swedish tradition is to warm it up and enjoy it with pea soup,” told Mr. Seed. “It was a Thursday night tradition.”
By the turn of the 20th century, the liqueur had gained a foothold in America as a cocktail ingredient. But when Prohibition hit, momentum slowed. Punsch went out of fashion and then disappeared altogether.
Mr. Seed teamed with the Swedish-born, America-dwelling oenologist Henrik Facile to come up with a new Swedish punsch recipe. The new product has been labeled Kronan. Unlike many other punsch brands, it will actually be made by Swedes in Sweden — just out Stockholm. Kronan will be sold in both Sweden and America for $30.
“It’s traditional applications are for very simple drinks,” Mr. Seed said. “The Swedes have it straight or straight warmed up.”
Maybe Americans can start a new tradition of punsch and pea soup Thursdays.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What I Saw at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic

Whoopie Pies filled with Patron.

A white-haired woman whose dress upheld dozens of cans of "hangover cure."

Talking Absinthe With Ted Breaux

Because who else would you talk about absinthe with? I mean, if you had the choice.

The green-hued fairy has lost some of its bloom a bit since the heady days when it returned to the market in 2007, after a century-long absence. But Breaux remains a true believer. The man who made Lucid—still the most ubiquitous brand of absinthe—is not retreating, as many absinthe producers have, but has brought out three new artisanal bottlings, all based on ancient recipes.

Here's my Wine Enthusiast interview with Breaux:

Booming Breaux
Ted Breaux has already made his mark in the absinthe world. An early expert on, and advocate of, the green elixir—one of the world's most popular and fabled liqueurs before disappearing for much of the 20th century—his Lucid was the first absinthe to hit the U.S. market when all legal barriers to the product fell in early 2007. Four years later, as absinthe's fortunes have boomed and then somewhat cratered, the world's foremost absinthe evangelist is back with three new products—Jade C. F. Berger, Jade Esprit Edouard and Jade 1901—all replications of original 19th century brands, and all priced over $100.
Wine Enthusiast: Why, after creating Lucid, was it important to you to bring three more absinthes to the U.S.?
Ted Breaux: Because Lucid is a solid upper-mid-market product. It is a product we intend for people to use to make classic absinthe cocktails. It satisfies that need very well. But we felt there would be a growing group who would appreciate the upper premium. These new ones appeal to a niche crowd of, basically, absinthe snobs.
WE: These are all recreations of Belle Epoque absinthes. How did you piece together the recipes?
TB: I owned several bottles of each and analyzed their make-up with the 130-year-old equipment at the Combier Distillery [in the Loire Valley]. Each one is an accurate reproduction of an original brand that existed in the 19th century. This was made possible by my analytical efforts, which started 11 years ago.
WE: If you had to give thumbnail sketches of the three absinthes, how would you describe them?
TB: It's like the difference between Pinot Noir, Cabernet and Malbec. They’re all instantly recognizable as absinthe. The difference is in the nuances in the spirits, in the herb bill, the distillation and the finishes. Even with an amateur palate, you can discern the differences.
WE: OK, say I'm a Pinot Noir man. Which absinthe would you recommend?
TB: I'd say my Espita Eduoard. Despite that it's 144 proof, it's round in the mouth, with a forward herb bill and nice round herbal finish. It's punchy, but elegant.
WE: Absinthe hit the U.S. market with a big splash, but then retreated some after it was seen that demand wasn't as high as expected. How to you view absinthe's future in the U.S.?
TB: We knew before 2007 that, upon getting absinthe re-legalized in the U.S; there would be two phases. In the first phase, availability outpaced education. People rushed out and bought it, just because they could, even though they didn't know what to do with it. I don't care how big a wine or whiskey snob you are, when it comes to absinthe you're an amatuer. This is where phase two starts. Basically we train bartenders and mixologists and journalists and industry people in classic absinthe cocktails and the strategy and purpose of those cocktails. This is what I do every day.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Garnished With History

The first seminar I attended at this year's Manhattan Cocktail Classic was a lively one about a timely topic—when does excessive historicism and general cocktail geekdom get in the way of a customer's simply enjoying his cocktail. Historian David Wondrich asked this question of panelists Chad Solomon, Philip Duff and St. John Frizell, and the audience, which, in this case, had a lot to say on the matter.

One question that was asked by Wondrich, but not adequately answered by the panel or audience, was why is tracking a drink's history so much more an obsession and practice in the cocktail world than it is in the food world. I have a theory about this. Culinary tradition in cooking is, I believe, more of a continuum. Chefs aren't ignoring history. They've just absorbed the work of their antecedents and express those influences in their food and techniques, without drawing particular notice to it. Restaurants never suffered anything like Prohibition, which closed down regular bars, and interrupted drinking traditions for more than a decade. When it was repealed, the historical timeline was lost, as were various products, practitioners and books. The industry had to piece everything together again. That is why I think cocktail people are so interested in their work's history—it was taken away from them. The excessive notations of today's cocktail menus are a way of making sure that never happens again.

Here's my write-up for the Times:
Do You Have to Think When You Drink?
By Robert Simonson
Pick up a drink menu these days and it’s not unusual to find a citation for each cocktail detailing its inventor, its place of origin and year of creation. There might even be a few lines of colorful back story. This can charm and inform, or in the wrong hands, it can be very annoying.
So on Saturday four cocktail historians and mixologists gathered at Astor Center to discuss whether this historicism has gone too far.
David Wondrich, author of a recent historical study of punch, presided over the event, titled “History: What Is It Good For?” part of this year’s Manhattan Cocktail Classic convention.
A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, said the writer, cocktail consultant and bar owner Philip Duff. The road of half-baked “research,’’ he said, “leads to the palace of arrogance.”
But St. John Frizell, a writer and owner of Fort Defiance in Brooklyn, said there was a value to knowing about a cocktail’s provenance.
“Knowing where the cocktail comes from makes it taste better,” Mr. Frizell contended. “You never drink in a vacuum.” He suggested that sketching in the historical framework of a classic drink can help to “provide an extra level of enjoyment.”
Chad Solomon, a founder of the consultancy and catering group Cuffs and Buttons, added that, at this point in the cocktail revolution, bartenders have little choice but to stow a little history up their gartered sleeve. “People want context,” he said. “People expect it.”
The challenge, it seems, is to deliver that context so that it’s received as a pleasurable accompaniment to drinking, and not, as Mr. Wondrich put it, “a club we beat people with.” One audience member wondered how most bartenders would answer the question, “Am I doing this for my guest, or for myself?”
Mr. Duff suggested the problem of preachiness may rest largely with the more ego-centric male members of the profession. “You know that drink recipe you’ve never heard of in the book that’s out of print?” he said, imitating a certain grandstanding type of bartender., Mr. Duff, however, believed a bar’s advertisement of historical fealty to old drinks telegraphed a useful message to the consumer: “These drinks are taken care of.”
Misty Kalkofen, a mixologist at Drink , in Boston, who was in the audience, said that knowing the story behind an old drink is a great hospitality tool. “If a story connects us with the guest, that’s great,” she said.
Still, Mr. Solomon said he thought it was perhaps time to move on from history-happy cocktail bars. “I think we’ve plateaued with the use of history,” he said. “The history is stifling the recreational aspect of the bar.”

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cachaça Sorbet to Start Your Day?

This is the first sight that greeted me at this year's Manhattan Cocktail Classic convention. A bright lime-green Leblon Cachaça truck. In a city gone truck-food mad, why not?

At first, I thought they were passing out Caipirinhas. But that might actually be illegal or something. Not sure. Anyway they weren't. They were giving out something better: Cachaça sorbets.

And just to show Leblon has not given up on its quixotic fight with the U.S. Government's labeling of Cachaça:

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Chat With Murray Stenson

I have still yet to have the pleasure of meeting Murray Stenson, Seattle bartender of legend. But this Wine Enthusiast assignment gave me the chance to chat with him on the phone.

Mixologist of the Month: Murray Stenson
By Robert Simonson
Star bartenders of the 19th century, like Jerry Thomas, became famous by hop-skipping the nation, setting up short-lived grog shops in San Francisco, New York, New Orleans and Chicago. Murray Stenson is a more efficient worker. He became a modern-day legend by working a couple of bars along a two-block stretch in Seattle.
Last July, Stenson, 61, was named the best bartender in America at the 2010 Tales of the Cocktail convention in New Orleans. Stenson, who doesn’t think much of awards, did not attend, instead putting in his usual shifts at the Zig Zag Café, Seattle’s best-loved classic cocktail bar. Murray’s been senior bartender there for a decade, ever since he abruptly quit his job at Il Bistro, an Italian restaurant down the street. Stenson considers his education in craft cocktails to have begun at Il Bistro. But he is as loyal to his customers as they are to him, and he saw red one Valentine’s Day when the owners favored lovey-dovey diners over regulars. “I saw them turning away people who had been coming for a year and half. I just turned in my keys at the end of the night.” The Zig Zag lost little time capitalizing on Il Bistro’s loss; the bar hired Stenson that night.
Unlike today’s career mixologists, Stenson fell into bartending the old-fashioned way. “I was drifting, trying to figure out what I was going to do when I grew up.” His first job was at Benjamin’s, in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue. He worked the service bar, dealing only with waiters. That suited him fine. “At that time I could not talk to people at all. I had the biggest inferiority complex.” His next gig, at Henry’s Off Broadway, cured him of his shyness. “It was one of the most popular bars in the city. I was forced to talk to people.”
Stenson figures he has 10 more years of drink-slinging left in him. His model is a bartender at Maneki, a Japanese hole in the wall that is the oldest restaurant in Seattle. “She’s tended bar for 50 years. She is 80 and still going strong.”

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Rum Via Cognac

I wrote this little item about the lovely Banks 5 Island Rum for Wine Enthusiast:
Banks 5 Island Rum
By Robert Simonson
Rums wear their places of origin like badges of honor. A Jamaican rum maker would bristle if his product were mistaken for one from Barbados, and vice versa. And the distillers of Martinique—producing several rums that boast a rare AOC designation—would raise a cri de coeur if their rums were lumped in with the rest of their Caribbean brethren. So Banks 5 Island Rum—a blend of white rums from a quintet of different nations: rinidad, Jamaica, Barbados, Java and Guyana—is born of a new and unorthodox notion. The motivations behind its creation become clearer when one discovers that Arnaud de Trabuc is the brand’s master distiller. Formerly the president of Thomas Hine & Co., de Trabuc has a long history of working with Cognac, where blending is the name of the game. He considered rum’s prevailing commercial model—where islands work only with home-grown liquor—to be shortsighted. “I thought since we were going to do a new rum, we had to do something a little bit different,” said de Trabuc. He spent 18 months toying with the blend for Banks (which is named after explorer Sir Joseph Banks), finally settling on a cocktail of 21 diffrent rums anchored by a Trinidadian distillate. Not surprisingly, the result tates like nothing else in the rum world, viscous and pungent, with unexpected notes of green pepper, coconut and ripe tropical fruit. The only gripe with the result: 5 Island is a bit of a misnomer, since Guyana isn’t an island.

New Bombay Sapphire Product Christened "East"

I still haven't sampled it (I expect to at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, which begins tomorrow), but I now have the name of the new bottling from Bombay gin. It will be called Bombay Sapphire East.

The new gin to be unveiled in July in three test markets (including New York). East is a logical name, for joining the 10-botantical recipe found in regular Bombay Sapphire will be Thai lemongrass and Vietnamese black peppercorn. The original ten ingredients are Spanish almonds, grains of paradise, lemon peel, licorice, juniper, orris root, coriander, cassia bark, and cubeb berries.

Like Bombay Sapphire, which was launched in 1987, and is one of the first premium gins to hit the market, the botanicals for the new liqour will not be steeped in the spirit. Rather, the distilled alcohol vapors are passed through a mesh basket containing the botanicals in order to catch the flavor and aroma.

Sapphire has such a following, I predict the line extension will do splendidly, and enjoy success similar to that of Beefeater 24, a like-minded product that was introduced in late 2008, and features Chinese green and Japanese sencha teas.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The End of Flavored Vodka

Surely this must be a sign that the era of flavored vodkas has reached its nadir and is coming to an end.

Burnett’s Flavored Vodka, which has about a gajillion different flavors, announced today the latest addition to their wine.

Whipped Cream. 

"Burnett’s Whipped Cream Flavored Vodka was a direct result of the demand for great flavors that we see in the market," said Reid Hafer, Senior Brand Manager, Burnett Flavored Vodkas, in a statement. "We regularly seek out opportunity to grow the franchise with high quality, relevant flavors. This flavor, in particular, speaks to our consumers and their interest in the expanding line."

I would say that it speaks to their consumers and their interest in not drinking like adults, but like overgrown adolescents. Or their interest in never drinking anything that remotely tastes like alcohol, but stays closer to candy.

Burnett’s already traffics in many of the execrable and absurd (and endless) vodka flavors already out there, including Blueberry, Cherry, Citrus, Coconut, Cranberry, Espresso, Fruit Punch, Grape, Lime, Limeade, Mango, Orange, Orange Cream, Peach, Pineapple, Pink Lemonade, Pomegranate, Raspberry, Sour Apple, Strawberry, Sweet Tea, Vanilla and Watermelon. (How Whipped Cream tastes much different than Vanilla, I can not imagine.)

So, do I pour this stuff over my ice cream sundae, or stick a nozzle on it and stream it straight into my mouth?

A Hotel in Wine Country

This isn't really a liquor article, aside from the fact that the Hotel Indigo East End is in the middle of Long Island wine country. And that they sponsor local wine and spirit tours. And that their restaurant has a nice list of local wines and cocktails made with LiV Vodka and liqueurs. Oh, what the hell—it is a liquor article.
Riverhead Retrofit
By Robert Simonson
At the point where the Long Island Expressway meets Route 25, in Riverhead, there is a hotel. It used to be a Best Western, and had such a bleak reputation that the basement rooms set aside for conferences and other formal affairs were known by local politicians as “The Dungeon.”
Last fall, on November 17, that dungeon didn’t look so dismal. The room was filled to capacity with celebrants. A lively rhythm and blues band was playing in the corner. Cocktails using locally distilled vodka were being shaken up. Wines from East End vintners such as Sparkling Pointe, Bedell, Peconic Bay and Macari were flowing. For each wine poured, Lia Fallon, the chef and owner of Amarelle in Wading River, had whipped up some succulent finger food, including seafood crepes filled with lobster, shrimp and bay scallops.
A young man of middling size and dark hair walked up to the podium and tapped the microphone. “There was a feeling when this started of ‘How is this ever going to happen?’ ” he told the crowd, gathered for the official opening of the renovated hotel, now called the Hotel Indigo East End. “This could have been a reality show. This was the most interesting nine months of our lives.”
That man was Rob Salvatico, who, along with his father, Albert, spent 2010 converting the dilapidated and despised Best Western into a branch of the Indigo chain of swanky, locally oriented, boutique hotels. In doing so, they became part of the surging interest in the nearby wine country, and the renaissance of hotels and B&B’s that will help shelter wine-craving visitors.
Today, the Hotel Indigo East End’s outer walls are clad in fieldstone and large murals boasting swirling, blue-and-white seashell imagery. The dramatically peaked, wooden carport that greets drivers outside the main entrance is echoed by the spacious lobby, with its arched, thick-timbered ceiling, illuminated by large, orange, boxy lighting fixtures. There’s a miniature gym, and further back, past the wall of flat-screen televisions tuned to various cable news networks, is the hotel’s new restaurant and bar, Bistro 72 (named after LIE’s Exit 72). For this, the Salvaticos coaxed Fallon into taking on a second kitchen. Out by the swimming pool, comfortable seating is artfully positioned around a cozy outdoor stonework fireplace. A “poolscape,” Rob calls it.
The Salvaticos started spreading the word about the hotel’s new lease on life even before Hotel Indigo East End opened, holding special wine dinners in Bistro 72 (as well as a one spirits dinner, in which every course was paired with a different libation from the nearby LiV vodka distillery), and conducting wine and spirit tours of the North Fork. Such pointedly provincial thinking is a definite plus where Indigo is concerned. “The whole concept of the Indigo brand is regional adaptation and to embrace local product and culture,” says Rob Salvatico. “We think that’s the right move. People want a special experience everywhere they go, even on business travel.”
The inn is a far cry from the Salvaticos’ first foray into lodging, the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites East End, also in Riverhead. Built in 1999, it was the first new hotel built in Nassau County in a decade. The two men knew they were wading into very different waters with this new venture. “Holiday Inn Express is a very functional, attractive hotel,” says Albert Salvatico, a former insurance executive who—in contrast to his big-picture son, whose language skews toward the visionary—talks in the common-sense cadences of a career businessman. “But it doesn’t have these design features.”
Ironically, the hotel actually began life as a Holiday Inn, back in 1972, long before the North Fork was linked in the public mind with wine, let alone wine tourism. Later on, it was taken over by Ramada and finally Best Western. The Salvaticos bought it in 2004 and ran it as a Best Western for six years. When they decided to reinvent the location, they might very well have created another utilitarian hotel had the big lodging chains not been so unbending about low-slung habitations. The existing building was created when sprawling, ranch-style hotels were a common sight for businessmen and vacationing families. But such wide, unprepossessing structures long ago gave way to the space-maximizing hotel towers of today.
“In the hotel industry, two-story buildings are not favored” says Albert. “The major brands don’t want to give you a franchise.” Hilton and Starwood both said no. The Salvaticos didn’t even bother pitching Marriott, predicting what the response would be. Then the elder Salvatico took notice of the quirky Indigo chain, which was launched in 2004 and is part of the InterContinental Hotels Group. There are more than 30 locations, including one in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. “We were intrigued by this brand because of its boutique nature,” he explains. “It’s not standardized, not cookie cutter. Every one is different from the last one. It’s much more in the European style. You don’t tear a building down. You retrofit it to make things for a different purpose.”
To attract Indigo’s interest, and to compensate for the unfashionable location, they knew they had to come up with an eye-popping design concept. “Riverhead has been in a period of decline,” says Albert. “So now you got a double whammy against you. An unattractive building and a town that doesn’t have the cachet of being upscale.” They turned to Morris Nathanson Design, a firm in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, that had designed the Manhattan restaurants Oceana, Heartland Brewery and the P.J. Clarke’s locations at Lincoln Center and the Financial District.
“The colors are meant to reflect eastern Long Island, the sand, the water, very muted, even the wood tones,” says Rob Salvatico of the retro-flavored design, which, despite the building’s 1972 birthday, smacks more of the early 1960s. They wanted to create a connection to the local viticulture, but didn’t want to overdo it. Instead of blown-up pictures of vineyards and grapes, a small, understated photo of a barrel was placed by every room door. “That’s our nod to the wineries. We wanted to be modest.”
Indigo went for it, and construction began. Soon, the Salvaticos’ busy minds turned to food. They had an arrangement with a local caterer, but weren’t happy. “I went downstairs to the computer,” remembers Albert. “I couldn’t sleep. I typed into the computer: ‘Hampton Caterers.’ I came up with four names,” including Black Tie Caterers, then co-owned by Lia Fallon. He called up each of the businesses to see if they’d be interested in taking charge of a new hotel restaurant. “Lia was the only one who called back.”
Fallon wasn’t really looking to take on a second eatery. “It’s hard enough running one restaurant,” she says. “I told them, ‘I’ll get you started.’“ But Rob Salvatico was determined. “I begged,” he jokes. “Then we locked the doors.”
If Fallon was hesitant at first, she’s committed now. “My style is simple American cuisine with a little bit of a spin. I was French trained. At Amarelle, it’s fine dining. Here we want to keep it upscale casual,” with burgers, pull pork sliders, lobster rolls, grilled shrimp, and fish and chips (the whitefish beer-battered with local Greenport lager) on the menu. Many of the dishes incorporate local produce, cheeses and berries. As for the wine list, 30 percent of the 70-plus selections hail from Long Island. Shinn, Lenz, Channing Daughters and Wölffer are all represented.
“We cherry-picked everything,” says Fallon, who also gives Long Island wines pride of place at Amarelle. “We have a lot of great relationships with wineries.”
Rob Salvatico, meanwhile, strengthened ties with the vineyards by organizing wine and spirits tours that commence at the hotel and stop at vineyards like Sparkling Pointe, Bedell, Peconic Bay and Castello di Borghese, as well as at the East End’s sole distillery, LiV. Riders, who are given a box lunch to offset their vino intake, are ferried by either town car, limo or shuttle bus, depending on the number that sign up. Rob likes to make LiV the final stop on the tour. “It is the best possible finish,” he explains. “After all that wine, you get a little tired. You have some vodka, it brings you back.”
LiV vodka, in fact, is at the heart of the hotel’s signature drink, the Indigo Black and Blue cocktail. Many of these were shaken and poured at the November opening bash. As partygoers exited the hotel, they were greeted by a gourmet coffee truck, serving late-night, barista-pulled espressos. The Hotel Indigo in Chelsea couldn’t have thought up a more cosmopolitan grace note.

Monday, May 9, 2011

When You're in Rhode Island

It's easy to forget Imbibe magazine, that bible of the cocktail industry, also writes about non-alcoholic beverages. I was reminded in a very tangible way when the editors asked me to write about Coffee Milk, the official state beverage of Rhode Island. I had particular fun doing this piece as it gave me an excuse to visit Providence, a small city I've come to like very much. I still have bottles of Autocrat and Eclipse coffee syrup in my fridge. Special thanks to Jonathan Gutoff and his family, who were my hosts while in Providence.

Here's the article:

Friday, May 6, 2011

More White Dog

Even as it draws derision from some whiskey purists, the white dog trend shows no sign of abating. The latest out of the gate is Kentucky distiller Heaven Hill, which is releasing not one, but five different white whiskeys. Here's my item from the New York Times' Diner's Journal:

The Palette of Moonshines Expands


In the past two years, many an American distillery has hopped on the moonshine bandwagon, releasing its own unaged, just-off-the-still “white dogs.” But few are taking it as far as Heaven Hill, the large, family-owned, Kentucky outfit that produces a wide line of whiskeys. They are going to have five different versions of white lighting. Why? Because they can.

“We’re the only distillery who can realize a new make of every kind of American whiskey,” said Larry Kass, longtime spokesman of Heaven Hill. By that he means that the company produces five distinct mash recipes: a rye-heavy bourbon; a wheated bourbon, which substitutes wheat for the usual rye; a wheat whiskey; a rye whiskey; and a corn whiskey.

Two of the white whiskeys, which are being bottled as the Trybox Series of New Make Whiskeys, were released in April, and are just reaching stores, priced at around $25. They are the rye-accented bourbon distillate (which is still dominated by corn, which must, by law, make up 51 percent of a bourbon’s mash bill) that results in such familiar brands as Elijah Craig and Evan Williams; and the rye recipe that produces Rittenhouse Straight Rye.

“This whole phenomenon is the result of mixologists,” said Mr. Kass, “who are finding new and novel ways to use it and take advantage of its attributes. The other market is retail sales. But I don’t think it’s the type of product someone is going to buy and use cases and cases. You get connoisseurs buying it as an educational tool. In bringing out these different versions, it puts a few more arrows in the quiver of mixologists and connoisseurs.”

The other three Heaven Hill white dogs — the wheated bourbon (which ages into Old Fitzgerald), the wheat whiskey (Bernheim Original) and corn whiskey (Georgia Moon and Mellow Corn) — will be rolled out slowly, with the next arrived sometime this coming fall. All will be bottled at 62.5 percent alcohol, or “barrel proof.”

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Russell McCall and the Pinot Noirs of Long Island

I enjoyed interviewing Russell McCall, the creator of the first truly fine Pinot Noir to come out of Long Island. His company was good, his wine was good, the bucolic scene in his East End tasting room (a converted barn) was good. The interview would have been a complete pleasure if he had agreed to pose for a photograph. But he became dodgy when the subject of art came up, and in a burst of false modesty combined with familial price, offered up his progeny. So what Edible East End had to settle for was incongruous shots of his two sons, who have little to do with the McCall winery. It's one of the oddest things that's happened to me in 25 years of journalism.

For this post, I have dug up a web photo of Russell for this post, because it's my blog and I insist. Here's the article:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

1534 to Host Cocktail Tournament to Benefit Denver Bartender's Wife

On May 16, 1534, the new Lower East Side cocktail bar, will play host to the Mixfits Royal Rumble, "a twisted bartending charity tournament of sorts, to be held during (but not with) the Manhattan Cocktail Classic."

Heading up the Rumble is Denver bartender Sean Kenyon whose wife was diagnosed with MS this past year. In support of MS research, the majority of the proceeds for this rumble will benefit the MS Society.

Tobin Ellis and Steve Olson will judge the work of 18 bartenders, who will be put through three rounds of competition, and number of competitors being winnowed down with each round. Among those trying for the prize are such luminaries as Tad Carducci, John Lermayer, Misty Kalkofen, Danny Valdez and Don Lee. The premise of each round is a secret, and I'm not supposed to reveal any information. But let's just say there are some interesting criteria for winning. The victor will get a $900 cash prize.

The action begins at midnight and lasts until 4 AM. $20 buys you admission.