Sunday, July 24, 2016


2 oz Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/4 oz Orgeat
1/4 oz Maple Syrup
2 dash Peychaud's Bitters

Shake with ice, strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with lemon oil from a twist.

Two weeks ago, my restaurant's early Sunday close provided me the opportunity to catch last call at Backbar on the walk home. For a drink, I asked bartender Carlo Caroscio for his drink of the day a few nights prior called the Jackalope. Carlo explained his riff on the Apple Jack Rabbit by describing how he utilized an orgeat-maple combination that he came up with in an Army & Navy riff back in Baltimore.
The Jackalope proffered an aroma filled with lemon, apple, and maple notes. Lemon with a richness from the maple on the sip transitioned into apple, earthy, maple, anise, and bitter elements on the swallow.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

menehune gonzalez

1 oz Blanco Tequila (Espolon)
1 oz Rhum Agricole (Depaz)
3/4 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Orgeat
1/4 oz Green Chartreuse
1/2 Egg White (1 Egg White)

Shake once without and once with ice, and strain into an ice-filled Old Fashioned glass (coupe, no ice). Garnish with 3-4 drops of hibiscus tincture (Bittermens Burlesque Bitters).

Two Saturdays ago, I was mentally preparing myself for Tales of the Cocktail, so I reached for the 2009 Tales' Stir Your Soul recipe book for inspiration. There, I spotted a drink created by Martin Cate that he presented at a spirited dinner at G.W. Fins with Beachbum Berry in 2009 a few months before Smuggler's Cove opened. With tequila in the split spirits base, I wondered if the Gonzalez part was a nod to Trader Vic's Pinky Gonzalez agave Mai Tai riff; indeed, the lime and orgeat supported that idea. Trader Vic's books also offer a bunch of recipes referring to the Menehune including the Menehune Juice which is essentially another Mai Tai riff using light Puerto Rican Rum. Here, Green Chartreuse and egg white take the Mai Tai concept in a different direction.
The Menehune Gonzalez gave forth mostly agave aromas with grassy and herbal undertones. Next, a creamy lime sip led into grassy, tequila, earthy, and herbal flavors on the swallow.

Friday, July 22, 2016

:: tips for bartenders on how to impress management ::

Recently, there was a thread on Reddit’s bartenders forum where a user inquired about “any tips on how to impress my manager behind the bar,” and I interpreted the manager as both general and bar. Moreover, I took the ideas from what I gathered as both a bartender and as someone running a bar program. I replied with a list of ten suggestions that was so well received on Reddit, that I posted a screen capture on my Twitter. That was successful with the likes of Erick Castro reposting it, that I decided to expand on them for the USBG National web page, and I am reposted an edited form of the article here (you need to be an USBG member to access the site). While some of the material was sourced from personal experiences and seminars I attended, many of it was actually written down a century ago in William Boothby’s Ten Commandments in his American Bar-Tender book.

1). Take initiative. Do things without being asked.
During a talk at Boston’s Thirst event, a story was related on a barback asking a bartender, “Why are you mad at me? I do everything you ask.” To which the bartender replied, “Because I shouldn’t have to ask.” Learning to anticipate, being on top of things, and putting out fires before they start will transmit a degree of mastery to any manager more than follow through on any series of simple requests will. Some jobs seem thankless like polishing the back bar’s bottles on a slow shift, but it will gain a lot more notice than being observed chatting with the servers at the pass or, worse, surfing on your phone.

2). Guest before ego. Hospitality first. Praise and feedback will hit the manager’s ear.
At my current restaurant, the owners’ described our role as being the guest’s advocate and finding out ways to make their night the best for them. Sometimes nothing will make a guest happier than a simple beer or vodka soda and not the latest sour-hoppy beer or recent craft cocktail creation. Some of my most recent vocal praise has come not from beer and cocktail drinkers but from abstainers who were so pleased that I took their mocktail requests with such respect and down to the seriousness that I took the garnish.

3). Complain less, offer fixes and improvements more.
This is something that I was horrible at when I first became a bartender and I annoyed my first bar manager to no end. Sometimes I was right in complaining, but many times my timing or tactics in approaching the matter were wrong. Complaining might feel cathartic but it will cloud your work persona with a bunch of negativity. Coming up with suggestions or solutions to issues will add value though. And it is important to remember that trying not to complain is not the absence of caring.

4). Take shifts, never call out. Consider being on time for a shift as 15+ minutes early. Use the time to read books about booze or hospitality; be available to chat or help out.
Boothby’s rule #1 was to be on time if not earlier to make sure that you have used the facilities and set up your station before the shift. I would take it even a step further and be available to help the previous shift, to aide the managers re-arranging the tables for an event, or to talk about the bar program and your days off. If not, read. Or at least be there and relaxing on your last opportunity to use your phone.  Not having your phone visible during your shift is actually a great way to impress your managers, and I did not even include it in the original list. And certainly Boothby was not prescient about such matters.

5). Don’t do anything shifty. Stay sober. Take responsibility and learn from your mistakes.
My first bar manager when I started to work for him listed a mere handful of rules, one of which was “do not steal from me.” Some establishments would consider drinking on the job theft, so the two are linked in my mind. Boothby eloquently had his rule #6 as “Sell all the liquor you can, but use as little as possible yourself.” Drinking on the job is obviously nothing new, but if you truly consider bartending not just a job but your occupation, keeping a level head is crucial. The manager on duty can always tell when the bartenders are “a little off” that night even if they do not report them. And even if drinking on the job is part of the bar’s accepted culture, many managers report how much more work they have to do when their staff is a bit inebriated (usually this is mentioned when the drinking instigators move on and the manager now has an easier job).

6). Keep the bar top, wells, bottles, the rest of the bar, and yourself clean. If you have time, clean. Spend out of work time on your hygiene and appearance without going too fancy that is.
About six of Boothby’s commandments regard cleanliness ranging from “See that your finger nails are always clean and your person presents a tidy appearance” to concerns regarding bar top, floor, glassware, and tool neatness. Keep in mind that our business is to deliver food and drink that is going into our guests’ bodies, and their first view of the establishment’s cleanliness and care will be your bar and your person.

7). Don’t push an agenda over a guest's desire of a product you sell or can mix up. Managers hear more about unhappy guests than the contented ones.
One of the Redditors commented “On 7 - a rule of thumb is you hear from 10 times as many unhappy guests as happy ones. It even seems conservative based on how quick people are to complain now.” Whether or not they speak to the manager, many guests will speak to the Internet on Yelp or other social media outlets to describe a minor slight more frequently than they will a minor good deed; on the flipside, it often takes a lot of hospitality and luck to be name-dropped for good service.

8). Respect your co-workers behind the bar. Respect the host, servers, cooks, and the dishwasher (especially the dishwasher). Don't be a dick. These are your family that will have your back if you treat them right and stab you in the back if you treat them wrong.
At Gaz Regan’s Cocktails in the Country, he teaches a lot about mindful bartending -- the total awareness of everything around you from what your customers, your fellow staff, and even the kitchen are doing. Set your intentions for the evening; “I want to make a lot of money tonight” is not as important as “I want to be of service to my guest” because that will set things up such that the money will come naturally. Mindfulness can start with focusing on communication. Whether you are at work or running errands in town, ask “How are you today?” and wait for a response along with eye contact. Perhaps not when you are in the weeds at the bar, but start when it is slower. And not just the guests, but consider the dishwasher, the barback, and others who may not get noticed in life. Communication is a two way street but stop and listen to what people have to say. Of course, I can just hark back to my first bar manager who summed it up with “Don’t be an asshole!” after hearing about a tiff I had with a server over ticket time when I was weeded. He was pleased when he had heard that I had apologized when things slowed down, but he made me think about getting to that point in the first place.

9). Mentor the barback with kindness. Remember that one day they may be your peer. It allows the bar manager more freedom to get other things done including mentoring you.
Since I got my start as a barback and I vividly remember how well some bartenders treated me in addition to how horribly others did, I developed a sensitivity to developing proto-bartenders with kindness and teaching them the ropes. It always gave me a joy to hear the two barbacks on the weekend shifts arguing over who would work at my bar. But the most meaningful moment was working a New Year’s Eve at the upstairs bar with a bartender who I had a great relationship from his barback days. We had both each other’s back and respect in ways that I have to attribute to my time spent with him months before. He was not the once-barback now junior bartender, but my teammate and friend.

10). Represent your establishment wherever you go. Act appropriately. News travels.
As I described in my Tips for Tales of the Cocktail article, act like your potential future employers, employees, and guests are watching. Similarly, you represent your current establishment everywhere you go, so act with dignity and try not to do or say anything negative or hurtful. Remember, you are a public figure. Treat others with kindness, for how you behave shows a window not only into your soul, but it projects the sense of hospitality one can expect in your bar or restaurant.

muddled mission

1 1/2 oz Anchor Junipero Gin (Beefeater)
1 oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1/4 oz Yellow Chartreuse
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1 Strawberry

Muddle strawberry, add rest of ingredients and ice, shake, and double strain into a coupe. Garnish with an additional strawberry.
Two Fridays ago, I wanted to make use of the strawberries in my refrigerator, so I turned to the Death & Co. Cocktail Book where I had spotted a few recipes in the past. The one that called out to me was Joaquin Simo's 2008 Muddled Mission. Once prepped, the drink offered strawberry, pine, and floral notes to the nose. Lemon with berry on the sip gave way to gin, herbal, pear, and floral flavors on the swallow with a strawberry finish.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

philippine punch

2 oz Orange Juice
1 oz Lemon Juice
1 dash Grenadine (1/4 oz)
1/2 oz Passion Fruit Nectar (Goya)
1/2 oz Amer Picon (Torani Amer)
1 1/2 oz White Puerto Rican Rum (1 oz Don Q Cristal + 1/2 oz Cuca Fresca Cachaça)

Blend with a scoop of crushed ice, pour into a 12 oz glass, and decorate with mint or sliced fruit (shake with ice, strain into a Tiki mug, fill with crushed ice, and garnish with mint, flowers, and citrus snake).

Two Thursdays ago, I turned to Trader Vic's 1972 Bartender's Guide for inspiration. There, I spotted a Tiki number called the Philippine Punch that included Amer Picon. Vic semi-frequently included Amer Picon in drinks like the Jayco and the Kahala Cooler along with grenadine -- a pairing that I first became aware of in the classic Picon Punch. Nowadays, amer/amaro in Tiki drinks like the Bitter MaiTai and the Riviera di Ponente are not uncommon, but these recipes date back over 40 years.
The Phillipine Punch presented a mint, floral, and lemon bouquet to the senses. On the palate, the sip was rather fruity with lemon, orange, and pomegranate notes, and the swallow gave forth grassy rum, passion fruit, and bitter orange flavors.

lagunas get away

2 oz Peloton de la Muerte Mezcal
1 oz Passion Fruit Syrup
1/4 oz Lemon Juice
1 Egg White

Shake once without and once with ice, strain into a snifter, and top with ice.
For a last drink at Barrel House in Beverly, I requested the Lagunas Get Away that read like a mezcal Hurricane with egg white to round off the Sour. I had tinkered with agave Hurricanes with my tequila-based Hopping Through the Frothy Waves by adding blanc vermouth to the mix with good effect, so I was curious as to how egg could effect things. In the glass, the Lagunas Get Away shared a passion fruit and mezcal nose. Next, a creamy lemon sip gave way to agave and passion fruit on the swallow with a smoky finish.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

a lesser man

1 1/2 oz Peloton de la Muerte Mezcal
3/4 oz Grapefruit Juice
1/2 oz Yellow Chartreuse
1/2 oz Falernum

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
Two Wednesdays ago, I took the commuter rail up to Beverly to have dinner at Barrel House. For a first cocktail, I asked bartender John Wierszchalek for A Lesser Man. John explained that they created the recipe for a regular, Michael Lesser, who loves mezcal drinks. Once shaken and strained, the drink presented an agave and herbal aroma. Next, grapefruit mingled with honey on the sip, and the swallow began with agave and herbal notes and ended with smoke and clove ones. Overall, the grapefruit lent a soft balance to the combination instead of the typical lemon/lime crispness of most shaken drinks.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

bitter nail

1 1/2 oz Great King Street Scotch
1/2 oz Drambuie
1/2 oz Cynar
1/2 oz Campari

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass filled with ice.

Two Tuesdays ago, we ventured over to Ames Street for a drink. I requested the Bitter Nail that was described on the menu as a "riff on the classic Rusty," and bartender Sam Cronin described how it was created by Iruma Shibuya before he left to bartend in Japan. In the glass, the Bitter Nail presented a smoky Scotch aroma with a hint of Campari. Honey on the sip was joined by Cynar's caramel and the whisky's malt, and the swallow offered smoky Scotch with a lingering bitter finish. Overall, I was impressed at how well the Cynar bridged the gap between the Scotch and the Campari perhaps by smoothing over the Campari as it did in the Negroni Tredici. This combination was also very similar to Maksym Pazuniak's Barefoot in the Dark with Swedish punsch in place of the Bitter Nail's Drambuie.
Little did I know that the Ames Street would close a mere week after having this drink; last Tuesday, a friend posted on her Instagram a photo of a sign on Ames Street's door that it was closed until further notice, and the following day Boston Magazine announced the closure. So may we all raise a glass -- in one aspect, it is a bitter nail to chew on, but on the other side of things, let us toast all of the interesting ways Ames Street approached menu layout and design (see the cocktail matrix above) as well as drink creation. Cheers!

esplanade mezcal swizzle

1 oz Mezcal (Montelobos)
1 oz Amontillado Sherry (Lustau)
3/4 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Falernum (Velvet)
1/2 oz Ginger Syrup (Barrow's Intense Ginger Liqueur)

Build in a Collins glass, fill with crushed ice, and swizzle to mix and chill. Garnish with a mint sprig.
For a second Fourth of July libation, I turned to the new issue of Imbibe Magazine to a recipe-laden article on falernum. The winner of the bunch was a Swizzle created by Danny Shapiro at Chicago's Sink/Swim called the Esplanade Mezcal Swizzle. In my mind, Swizzles and falernum are an obvious pairing for both were created in the Caribbean. Once prepared, the Swizzle gave forth mint and lime notes to the nose. Next, the sip's lime and grape were followed by smoky mezcal, nutty sherry, ginger, and clove elements on the swallow.