Tuesday, July 26, 2011

the boston cocktail experience

I just got back from Tales of the Cocktail on Monday, and while I had every intention of live blogging during my week in New Orleans, my hotel wanted to charge me $13 a day for internet. A day or two in, I figured out how to convert my Droid phone into a wireless hub, but by then my spirit to write in the moment was crushed and I felt that I should live every minute in the Crescent City to the max instead. I could sleep, sober up, heal my blisters, and write later, and probably you as a reader are thankful for posts that were more carefully written and proofread. While there, Boston made a lot of news as I will elaborate on, and instead of starting with my usual "Best Of" post, I figured I would give Boston a shout out. Originally, I wanted to call the post "This is Boston, Not L.A." after the seminal Boston hardcore punk album from the early 80s, but that seemed a little too antagonistic and Boston is not like that (except during Beer Pong and Petanque). Instead, I named it after one of the events at Tales.
The big news was that, beside Boston having a big representation of people -- both industry and not, they really shined in the judges' eyes. First, Eastern Standard won the Bar Room Brawl over some stiff competition from Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Portland. Honestly, my favorite drink of the night was from Portland's Teardrop, but the Eastern crew had what no other bar had -- service and speed (and their drinks were quality to boot). Behind their replica bar, five Eastern Standard bartenders were shaking pairs of double filled Boston shakers (sometimes six when the barback had a break from his duties) so there were twenty drinks being poured out every 3 minutes or so. Since each bar only had 4 drink choices (from the 4 sponsors) and since the drinks were free with admittance, there was no risk in just grabbing a drink off of the bar. Other bars were making single drinks to order, so Eastern's strategy paid off. Still, it was great to experience the different styles and tastes of those bars I have not visited yet.
Moreover, at the awards ceremony, Drink won the Best American Cocktail Bar award this year, and in Massachusetts news, Citizen-Worcester's Dave Delaney was chosen for Imbibe Magazine's cover cocktail honors; his drink must have been so good that by the time I got to the Imbibe Happy Hour in his honor, it was all gone. Since Worcester's scene is Citizen and the Armsby Abbey for craft cocktails, I will adopt them and lump them as "Boston" here.
Boston was also honored by Anchor Distilling Company who hosted a tasting room called The Boston Cocktail Experience (hence, this post's title). There, the likes of John Gertsen and Misty Kalkofen of Drink, Jackson Cannon of Eastern Standard, Joy Richard of the Franklin, Trina Sturm of Trina's Starlite Lounge, Brother Cleve of Think Tank, Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli of Island Creek, and Ben Sandrof of the Sunday Salon were making Boston-styled cocktails showcasing Anchor's product line. I will post more about some of the drinks they made there later.
In addition, a good number of Bostonites were presenters this year. Misty Kalkofen (Drink, LUPEC) spoke about applejack and agave, Brother Cleve (Think Tank) about cocktail culture and music, Jeff Grdinich (Drink) about the sporting life, and Kirstin Amann (Toro, LUPEC) about occupational hazards and women behind the bar (I need to point out that those are two different talks so I don't get in trouble through insinuation). Our fine bar scholars all apparently did a excellent job showing off the academic side of our university drinking town; I can only vouch for Misty during the agave talk. I can also partially vouch for Cleve as his music wafted through the walls when I was at the Embury session.
Boston also helped out plenty by sending down an army of CAPs (the cocktail apprentices program) who prepared all of the ingredients and drinks for the seminars, talks, parties, and other events. California Gold (Drink), Bryn Tattan (Drink), Corey Bunnewith (Citizen-Boston), Sean Frederick (Citizen-Boston), Jeff Grdinich (Drink), Sabrina Kershaw (Noir), Chad Arnholt (Woodward, Citizen-Boston) and David Delaney (Citizen-Worcester) all worked their butts off for the week. Please comment if I missed someone here (or anywhere else in the post); parts of the week are a bit hazy. And thank you CAPs for your efforts!
Lastly, the Boston Shaker store held a prime spot at the cocktail bazaar, and owner Adam Lantheume and his assistant Jessica Marcus (who is also the Cocktail Virgin matriarch) showcased the great cocktail tool and bitters offerings that are conveniently available to us here in Boston. You easily forget how spoiled we are here until you meet people from other parts of the country and world.

So cheers to Boston! Thanks for the company, the memories, and some of the things that weren't recorded to long term memory as well.

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