Wednesday, October 31, 2012

:: book review - drinking boston ::

At the Boston Cocktail Summit book store, they had advance copies of Stephanie Schorow's Drinking Boston: A History of the City and Its Spirits for sale. The copy I bought sat around for a few days before I decided that I would read it on the plane trip over to Portland Cocktail Week. When I spoke with Stephanie, she mentioned that DrinkBoston's Lauren Clark was a possible author for it before Lauren departed to California. While Lauren would have made for an excellent story teller for this book, Stephanie's other books put her in a good position to make this her next step. Her last book, The Boston Mob Guide: Hit Men, Hoodlums, & Hideouts, has an overlapping cast of characters from the Prohibition days when liquor smuggling and speakeasies were rampant in the city. And her work on The Cocoanut Grove Fire book covers the post-Prohibition era when nightclubs began to take over from the speakeasy's and the saloon's reign.

One of the focal points of Drinking Boston is the Ward Eight cocktail in regards to tracing back the legend and lore of its creation at Locke-Ober and possible original ingredients. This aspect hit home because a few weeks before during the Boston Cocktail Summit, I had attended a charity gala there called TheThing and had the honor of drinking a Ward Eight there. It also was poignant because the weekend I was reading the book, Locke-Ober announced that it was shutting its doors forever (later, I learned that a buyer might re-open it with the history intact instead of the gutting we all feared).

After the Ward Eight introduction, the beginning of the book focuses on the early days of drinking in Boston. I touched on some of this information during David Wondrich's Greasing the Hub talk during the Boston Cocktail Summit and during Christine Sismondo and James Waller's The Bad, Bad Boys of Saloons talk at Tales of the Cocktail (in support of Sismondos America Walks into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops book). Even with those primers, Schorow's research uncovers stories and locations that were new to me, and her focus was rather sharpened to the Boston area.

The novel material to me appears with the later years that included the Jacob Wirth restaurant and how it survived Prohibition serving near-beer and about the sports bar run by Michael "Nuf Ced" McGreevy. The speakeasy chapter covers interesting tales about the Marliave, Club Garden, Faneuil Hall Club, and other establishments that figured out ways to keep the drinks flowing despite the great problem sourcing spirits and the risks associated with operating an illegal bar during Prohibition. The book also traces the term "scofflaw" to a newspaper contest here in Boston, and how the name was usurped across the Atlantic for a cocktail to honor those who went against the Dry Tide.

The crime tie-ins are great during this period with one of the more colorful stories being about the life of Charlie Solomon who switched from narcotics trafficking to opening the Cocoanut Grove nightclub and hanging out at the Cotton Club during Prohibition. For the section on Prohibition repeal, Schorow ties in the modern speakeasy movement by discussing the aesthetics of modern day Boston establishments like Saloon, Brick & Mortar, and Backbar.

Moreover, Drinking Boston covers the city's beer brewing history as well including the Haffenreffer brewery that later became populated by the Boston Beer Company, and the other breweries that used to dot the Stony Brook corridor of Jamaica Plain and Mission Hill. Also, the modern rebirth of breweries and distilleries in Boston is discussed.

The more modern day chapters focus on famous Boston bars like J.J Foley's, the Rathskellar, Doyle's Café, and the Merry-Go-Round bar at the Copley (yes, there used to be more carousel bars than the one at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans). In addition, gay bar history, such as the Eagle, Playland, and Jacques, as well as jazz clubs like Wally's showcase the wide variety of drinking establishments in the city. And the end features some of the modern cocktail resurgence by providing coverage of Jackson Cannon, John Gertsen, Misty Kalkofen, Jamie Walsh, Todd Maul, and Brother Cleve.

Overall, the book does a good job discussing over three hundred years of imbibing in Boston. The power of the stories builds as the time frame becomes more and more recent, and the photo and illustration selections help to root these stories with images of bars and bootleggers alike.

rum julius

3/4 oz Orange Juice
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1 Egg White
2 oz Aged Rum (Turkey Shore Tavern Style)
1 oz Cream
3/4 oz Vanilla Syrup (BG Reynolds)
3 drop Orange Flower Water
2 dash Orange Bitters (Regan's)

Shake the citrus and egg white. Add rest of the ingredients and ice, and shake again. Strain into a Collins glass containing 1 1/2 oz soda water.

The Wednesday before we left for Portland Cocktail Week, we decided to make another one of Rhiannon Enlil's Ramos Gin Fizz variations that appear in Food & Wine: Cocktails 2012. The other one of hers we made was the Ginger Baker Fizz which was a delicious gin and ginger tribute to the Cream drummer who went on to work with Africanesque world music. This one, the Rum Julius, was a homage to the mall food court treat and called for aged rum as the base spirit.
The Rum Julius provided the rum's butterscotch notes along with citrus aromas. The creamy, carbonated orange sip was followed by the toffee rum flavors at the beginning of the swallow. Finally, the swallow ended pleasantly with the lemon and vanilla elements.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

a sainted devil

3/4 oz Blanco Tequila or Mezcal (Piedra Azul Blanco Tequila)
3/4 oz Cherry Heering
3/4 oz Fernet Branca
3/4 oz Orange Juice

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
In thinking about how well Fernet Branca and Cherry Heering complement each other such as in Sahil Mehta's South End Sling, Misty Kalkofen's Darkness til Dawn, and the classic Pinto, I wondered how I could utilize this combination in other ways. My mind wandered to another Cherry Heering drink, the Blood and Sand, and I figured that a hybrid of these ideas might prove interesting. Keeping the cherry liqueur and orange juice constant, I swapped the original's sweet vermouth for Fernet Branca. For a spirit, I was thinking agave. While I might have reached for mezcal, the liquor fairy had delivered a bottle of Piedra Azul tequila that I was interested in trying out.
Piedra Azul Blanco Tequila
• Nose: citrus, a light pineapple note, mineral/briny aroma.
• Sip: Lots of body with light citrus flavors.
• Swallow: Agave with a hint of smoke.
• Price: around $19/750 mL.
• Overall Assessment: Not a showstopper, but definitely a solid blanco for the price point.
For a name, I searched for other Rudolph Valentino movies besides the Blood & Sand, and I picked his 1924 film A Sainted Devil. The drink began with tequila and Fernet Branca aromas with a hint of cherry. The cherry continued on into the sip where it paired with the orange. And the swallow rounded off the drink with agave and Fernet Branca flavors. Overall, the orange juice mellowed out the Fernet Branca and tequila and made for an easier drinking libation.

deep six

2 oz Cynar
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Demerara Syrup
Leaves of 2 Mint Sprigs
1 pinch Salt

Shake with ice and double strain into a glass.

A few Sundays ago, we stopped into Drink. Bartender Palmer Matthews suggested a cocktail he had come up with called the Deep Six. The drink started with Palmer flipping through The Flavor Bible and spotting that artichoke pairs well with mint. In essence, what he conjured up could be considered a Cynar Southside.
The Deep Six presented a muddled mint aroma. The mint continued on into the sip where it paired with the lemon and on into the swallow where it worked rather well with the Cynar. Indeed, the mint offered its spicier notes in the sip and its chlorophyll and more herbal notes on the swallow. Moreover, the pinch of salt worked well to cut down on the Cynar's funky bitterness and make the drink into a better balanced Sour.

harry palmer

1 1/2 oz Rittenhouse 100 Rye
2/3 oz Martini & Rossi Sweet Vermouth (Cocchi)
1/2 oz Suze (Salers Gentiane Liqueur)

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass or coupe and garnish with a cherry.

A few Saturdays ago, I decided to make the Harry Palmer created by Alastair Burgess from the Happiness Forgets bar in London. The recipe came from a book I took a chance on, namely Tom Sandham's World's Best Cocktails; the book itself is a coffee table number with lots of images, many classics, and a decent number of originals garnered from the author's travels around the world. While many of the drinks are bit too culinary for my tastes, there are a few gems like the Harry Palmer that appeal perfectly to my drink making aesthetic. The Harry Palmer was named after a character in Len Dieghton's 1962 spy novel, The Ipcress File.
Overall, the recipe reminded me of the White Negroni variation crafted at P.D.T. called the Brown Bomber; however, the sweet vermouth put the drink closer to a Manhattan variation than the Brown Bomber's Lillet Blanc. The Harry Palmer offered up a mainly vermouth aroma with subtle rye and gentian notes poking through. The sip was a grape flavor that was dried out due to the bitter liqueur, and the swallow offered up rye notes that were modulated by the Salers Gentian Liqueur. Indeed, the sweet vermouth's richness made this drink a bit more interesting than the Brown Bomber for my palate.

cadet

1 1/2 oz Old Overholt Rye
1/2 oz Bénédictine
1/2 oz Fernet Branca
1/2 oz Lime Juice

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

After the Aftermath at Backbar, bartender Aaron Feder wanted to showcase his first cocktail creation called the Cadet. The drink was a cross between a Toronto and a Junior. Thinking about Canadian police, Aaron named his drink after a Junior Mountie who is also known as a Cadet.
Aaron described his drink as "a gateway Sour" perhaps in how the herbal liqueurs are lightened by the citrus and sugar content. The Cadet began with a lime aroma that led into a lime and malt sip. On the swallow, the rye's barrel and Benedictine's herbal notes mingled at the beginning and the Fernet appeared lightly on the finish. Overall, the drink did remind me of the Ali-Frazier I created earlier in the year, but the Cadet's Benedictine and lime took the drink in a different direction than the Ali-Frazier's Cointreau and lemon.

Monday, October 29, 2012

the aftermath

1 oz Dewar's 12 Year Blended Scotch
1 oz Applejack
1/2 oz Bénédictine
1/4 oz Fernet Branca
1 barspoon Allspice Dram
1 barspoon Water
1 dash Peychaud's Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail coupe pre-rinsed with Laphroaig Scotch.

After Brick and Mortar, I made my way home by way of Union Square in Somerville. Once there, I was lured into Backbar after reading about their drink of the day called the Aftermath. The tweet described it as, "It's the remainder of a fight between a Lion's Tail, Toronto, Bobby Burns, and a Junior." With that description, I was quite curious. Bartender Aaron Feder mentioned that there were elements of each in the drink, but the citrus aspect of the Lion's Tale and Junior were removed to make the Aftermath a straight spirits cocktail. In retrospect, I regret not asking where the Applejack aspect came from.
The Aftermath shared a Scotch and apple nose. The apple flavors and the Scotch's malt filled the sip.  Next, the swallow began with a hint of smoke and the herbalness of the Fernet Branca and Bénédictine and ended with the allspice notes of the Pimento Dram.

the 47%

1 1/4 oz Del Maguey Crema de Mezcal
1 oz Cocchi Americano
3/4 oz Combier Orange Liqueur
1/4 oz Zucca

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass.

For a second libation at Brick and Mortar, I asked bartender Evan Harrison if there were any recipes from their Spin the Bottle events. The one he picked for me was the 47% from the one where Senator John (a/k/a T.J. the DJ) was controlling the turn tables; his event's menu for "Re-Elect Senator John" had a variety of politically named drinks. In case this post is looked back upon in a few years, the 47% is in reference to the statistic Romney generated as to what percentage of the American population pays no income tax. And my apologies for inserting anything about the Democratic or Republican Parties here, for we at Cocktail Virgin only fully endorse the Drinking Party.
The mezcal in the 47% proffered a smoky agave aroma. The orange-citrus wine sip led into mezcal tempered by Zucca's bitter notes on the swallow. Perhaps increasing the Zucca by a quarter ounce and cutting down the orange liqueur by that same amount might make for a more interesting drink for me, but the recipe was quite enjoyable regardless.

dartmouth

1 3/4 oz St. George's Terroir Gin
1/2 oz Combier Orange Liqueur
1 barspoon Maple Syrup (1:1)

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass.

The day after the Piccola Italia event, I paid a visit to Brick and Mortar. For a first drink, bartender Evan Harrison recommended the Dartmouth off of the same Ivy League supplemental menu that the Penn appeared on. The recipe was a simple one that showcased one of the St. George's gins that I wrote about two months ago, namely the Terroir with its Douglas fir, bay laurel, sage, and juniper notes. I guess all of those green flavors in the gin could reflect Dartmouth's school colors, and the touch of maple may be a nod to its New Hampshire location.
The Dartmouth presented an orange juice-peel aroma from the liqueur with piney-fir notes from the gin. The orange continued on into the sip where it mingled with the maple. Finally, the orange and maple lingered on into the swallow which ended with the juniper, pine, and sage elements from the gin.

don't flip out

1 oz Fernet Branca
1 oz Hennessy VS Cognac
1/2 oz Punt e Mes
1/2 oz Caffè Borghetti Espresso Liqueur
1 Whole Egg

Shake once without ice and once with ice. Double strain into a coupe glass containing ~3/4 oz soda water. Garnish with freshly grated dark roast coffee bean.

One of the other drinks I had at the Fratelli Branca company's Piccola Italia educational soirée at the Villa Victoria Center was from Russell House Tavern's new bar manager, Sam Gabrielli. Earlier in the evening, Sam mentioned that he had proposed a Flip for the event and he was not expecting to have made the cut for the drink roster. However, after he did, he gained either the respect or the confusion of the other bartenders as to why someone would volunteer to make possibly hundreds of egg drinks. Regardless, Sam was up for it though and was quite proud of his creation. From the description, I decided to saved his Don't Flip Out for my end of the evening nightcap.
The product from Fratelli Branca that Sam was featuring was their espresso liqueur, Caffè Borghetti, that he finds not only amazing but underappreciated. He also finds that its deep roast flavors work well with bitter notes such as from Fernet Branca and Punt e Mes. Once mixed, the Flip began with dark roast coffee aromas from the garnish. The creamy sip presented caramel and roast flavors that were accented with a hint of carbonation. Next, the swallow began with Cognac and coffee and finished with Fernet Branca's herbal notes.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

wig in a box

3/4 oz Bombay Dry Gin
3/4 oz Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
3/4 oz Rothman & Winter Apricot Liqueur
1/4 oz Lemon Juice

Shake with ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
The next drink I tried at the Piccola Italia event hosted by Fratelli Branca was the Wig in a Box. The drink was created by Kelly Coggins, and he took his inspiration from the Hedwig and the Angry Inch song of the same name. In that song are the lyrics, "I look back on where I'm from/Look at the woman I've become/And the strangest things seem suddenly routine/I look up from my vermouth on the rocks/The gift wrapped wig's still in the box/Of towering velveteen." From the vermouth reference, Kelly started with Carpano Antica. To that, he added gin, apricot liqueur, and lemon juice in a recipe that reminded me of a sweet instead of dry vermouth Darb Cocktail. The Wig in a Box offered up a lemon and apricot aroma. The sweet grape and lemon sip led into a swallow containing apricot flavors and herbal notes from the gin and vermouth.

capovolto

1 3/4 oz Punt e Mes
1 1/4 oz Jim Beam Rye
1/4 oz Maraschino Liqueur
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a coupe glass.

Two Tuesdays ago, we attended an educational soirée hosted by Fratelli Branca company at the Villa Victoria Center in South Boston. The Piccola Italia event featured Italian music, food, and spirits including Fernet Branca, Punt e Mes, Carpano Antica, grappa, and Caffé Borghetti espresso liqueur. For a start, I decided to be taught the beauty of the bitter vermouth Punt e Mes by bartender John Nugent. John's lesson included an inverse Red Hook-like drink that he dubbed the Capovolto, which means upside down or capsized.
The Punt e Mes dominated the aroma that also had hints of rye and Maraschino liqueur. The Punt e Mes' grape flavor filled the sip and its bitter notes began the swallow. After this came the rye whiskey and then the Maraschino's nutty cherry and Angostura Bitter's spice. Indeed, the softer proof of this Manhattan variation made for a pleasant aperitif with which to start the evening.

hernando's hideaway

1 oz Reposado Tequila
1 oz Mezcal
1/2 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
1/2 oz Fair Trade Coffee Liqueur
1 barspoon Cinnamon Syrup
3 dash Mole Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass. Twist an orange peel over the top.

For my second drink, I asked bartender Danielle for the Hernando's Hideaway. At first, I figured it was a Saturday Night Live reference; however, Billy Crystal's character was Fernando not Hernando. Instead, the drink Danielle created was named after a song about a speakeasy; that song was written for the musical The Pajama Game in 1954.
Hernando's Hideaway greeted the nose with orange and agave aromas. The sip was rich with coffee roast flavors that were accented by wine notes. Finally, the swallow began with smoky mezcal and ended with coffee and cinnamon notes.

western passage

1 1/2 oz Batavia Arrack
1/2 oz Dolin Sweet Vermouth
1/2 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
1/2 oz Green Yellow Chartreuse (*)
1 dash Aromatic Bitters
1 dash Orange Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a cherry, and twist an orange peel over the top.
(*) The drink was served with Green Chartreuse (see comments for the recipe that was printed out for me).  After the Imbibe Magazine article came out with the recipe as Yellow Chartreuse, Deep Ellum lists the drink as a Yellow Chartreuse one on the website's menu.
Two Mondays ago, we stopped by Deep Ellum for dinner. For a first drink, I asked bartender Danielle for the Western Passage. Owner Max Toste later described how he created this recipe for Imbibe Magazine and just put it on the cocktail menu in anticipation of winter. The drink began with Green Chartreuse and funky Batavia Arrack aromas. Next, the sip offered grape flavors with hints of the Green Chartreuse's herbal notes, and the swallow followed that up with a wallop of Batavia Arrack and Green Chartreuse notes. Overall, with the Green Chartreuse and Batavia Arrack notes, the Western Passage came across like an angry Bohannon.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

:: turkey shore distillery ::

The other distillery I visited in Ipswich after Privateer yesterday was Turkey Shore Distillery located right next to the Mercury Brewing Company, makers of Ipswich Ale, and soon they hope to take over the Mercury's space when Mercury finishes with their new brewery.

One of the undercurrents with GrandTen and Privateer was a connection to history to the current distillery space, familial links to old distillers, and/or the area as a once active spirits producer. Here, one of the two owners of Turkey Shore, Mathew Perry, took it a step further by going to college as a history major and making a career out of being a history teacher before deciding to become a distiller. Mat and the other owner, Evan Parker, are childhood friends and they grew up on the same street, Turkey Shore Road. Between their two houses on the shore of the Ipswich river are the remnants of a late 18th to early 19th century rum distillery run by John Heard including the wharf where ships docked and a low grade slope to transport barrels of molasses off ships and into the distillery. Once the idea to open a micro-distillery came about, they took an interest in their childhood neighborhood's history. The two took some time to research the layout of the old distillery and chose equipment to mimic what this old distillery had.
Evan gave me a tour of the still they had custom made to recreate what the Heard Distillery utilized. While the still has the appearance and most of the functionalities of a classic pot still, the rising part of the swan's neck contains 4 plates to add a modern column aspect to it. For further purification and historic recreation, they installed a thump barrel which acts to pull of oils and other impurities. While thump barrels are more associated with whiskey, the Heard distillery had one, and Mat and Evan surmise that the Heard distillery made whiskeys out of local grains in addition to their main product of rum. Both the thump keg and the barrel containing the condenser worm came from the Mercury Brewing through a circuitous route starting in Spain followed by a Scotch producer and then the Sam Adams brewery.

For the fermentation, Turkey Shore uses pure molasses to recreate the historic rums back when sugar would have been too expensive to use. As for a yeast strain, they opted for a rhum agricole one from the French isles based off of the flavor profiles they achieved. One down side of using a Caribbean yeast is that instead of the 60-70°F ferments with other yeasts, they need to heat and maintain the molasses wash at 90°F to keep the yeast happy. For aging, the rum is stored in new 15 gallon barrels for 6-12 months. Since the barrels are all new and sourced from the same cooperage, blending in easier since there is less barrel-to-barrel variation. Blends are a combination of 8-9 barrels with some newer ones for spice notes and some older ones for more mellow flavors.
One thing that I found interesting when I tasted their white rum was that it had overlapping butterscotch-toffee notes as their aged Tavern Style Rum (reviewed previously) did. Evan broke their rum's flavor profile into three parts: the yeast which creates floral and vanilla notes out of the molasses, the molasses which donates sugary and caramel notes, and the barrel which contributes butterscotch and tobacco notes. Their Ipswich White Cap Rum is filtered in charcoal, but I did not inquire if it is barrel aged as well. Their two other rums that I tried are seasonal spiced ones. Their Greenhead Spiced Rum is unusual with green tea, lemongrass, and spearmint and was designed for spring and summer mixing. Their fall and winter one, Golden Marsh Spiced Rum, is more traditional with a few unique spices like peppercorn.

Mat summed up their operation by comparing it to Nantucket Nectar's Tom and Tom; they are two friends producing a product. And here, they are trying to recreate something that was lost to the region.

:: privateer rum distillery ::

While at the Boston Cocktail Summit, I met a handful of distillers with several of them being from local distilleries. Two of them, namely Privateer and Turkey Shore, were not only enthusiastic about me visiting but were pretty close to each other in Ipswich, MA, and suggested that we coordinate a double visit.  So yesterday, I hopped on the commuter rail and headed north.

The last distillery I visited was GrandTen in South Boston. It was interesting in comparing and contrasting each distillery's angle on their product. For example, one of the two people behind GrandTen is a classically trained chemist, and the way that they perfected each round of prototype gins definitely had a focused, scientific way about it.

The distiller for Privateer is Maggie Campbell, and her initial classical training was getting a philosophy degree. She traced her interests in distilling to prior to graduation; when she was 20, she visited the Oban distillery in Scotland and became fascinated by the tour. After college, her life path took her to wine school in Denver to become a sommelier, which definitely paid off later in training her nose for shaping her spirits. She found a job at a boutique beer and store, and when she suggested that they also sell spirits, it became her job to research what they should carry. As she got into home brewing, she began writing people for advice about books about beer and spirits. Her email correspondence with the Germain-Robin distillery paid off for there was soon an opening for an assistant distiller, and she worked there for nearly a year. The owner of Privateer Rum, Andrew Cabot, was in need of a distiller who could take their product to the next level, and when he contacted Germain-Robin for a recommendation, they suggested Maggie.

From a historical side, Andrew traced his lineage back to another Andrew Cabot who was a rum distiller and was also involved in privateering activities during the Revolutionary War period.  His ancestor's distillery was in nearby Beverly, MA.  While I did get to meet Andrew at the Boston Cocktail Summit, he was away on business during my visit.
Although there are other products in the works, Privateer has two main offerings, their silver and amber rums. The silver is made from evaporated cane juice and brown sugar with the former having apple and fruitier notes and the latter having some molasses-like ones; skipping molasses proper for the unoaked rum provides for a smoother spirit since molasses takes quite some time in the barrel to tame. The silver rum is treated like an eau de vie on the still to bring out more aromatics and delicate notes. The amber, on the other hand, is made from molasses and brown sugar; the molasses is an early pull than black strap so it has figgy and softer flavors instead of a darker, raisiny one. For the amber, the still is treated as if it were a whiskey run. Maggie's approach has changed the rum from where it was with the previous distiller, and from my tasting, it seems to be for the better. Months ago, I remember tasting the old silver rum, and I recall more tropical fruit notes; the current silver rum reflects that eau de vie technique and the rum contains more orchard fruit notes including apple and quince. While I did taste the amber back then, my mental notes were not strong enough to describe how the new amber rum has changed, but indeed, both were quite well done.

For ferments, the methodology is long, cool, and slow to create deeper and richer flavors and to minimize as much of the aromatics from being carried off with the carbon dioxide. While 24 hour to 3 day ferments are common in rum, Privateer's product takes a full 7 days. For a yeast, they use a European yeast strain that the original distiller selected from Scotland. The still, pictured above has the capability of being run as either a pot or a column still; the first or stripping run is done solely as a pot and the second or spirit run uses the hybrid pot-column.
One thing that Maggie spoke about was the art of élevage or the art of aging wine. Privateer uses a wide variety of barrels including second fill Bourbon and third fill brandy barrels, and the end product is an artful blend to reach the desired flavor profile. I found it interesting how Andrew, the owner, requires Maggie to devote 20% of her time to experimentation whether it be ways of improving the current products or creating new ones. One of the interesting ones that she spoke of was a single barrel experimental series using various wild and cultured yeast, with the wild yeast being collected from interesting geographical and agricultural regions.

Monday, October 15, 2012

sailor's delight

1 oz Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy
1 oz Del Maguey Mezcal Vida
3/4 oz Bénédictine
3/4 oz Yellow Chartreuse
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Twist a lemon peel over the top.

After attending the Speed Rack charity event two Wednesdays ago, I made my way across the Boston Commons to No. 9 Park for a nightcap. There, bartender Tyler Wang offered me his variation on the Widow's Kiss, although with the split spirit base, it might be more appropriate to say the Wicked Kiss. The last time I had an apple brandy-mezcal pairing was also at No. 9 Park with the Fire in the Orchard.
The lemon twist oils joined the fruity apple and savory Yellow Chartreuse aromas. A honey-apple sip was followed by the smokey mezcal, Bénédictine and Yellow Chartreuse herbal notes, and Angostura spice on the swallow.

pomme en croute

1 1/2 oz Calvados (Morin Selection)
1/2 oz Curaçao (Pierre Ferrand)
1/2 oz Campari or Gran Classico (Campari)
1/2 oz Lemon Juice

Shake with ice and strain into a glass with a sugared rim. Garnish with a long orange twist.

Two Mondays ago, I picked up our copy of Food & Wine: Cocktails 2012 and saw which riffs on classics I had not yet made. The one that caught my eye was Chris Hannah's Brandy Crusta variation. Chris works at Arnaud's French 75 in New Orleans, and he selected the Crusta for it was created a mere 4 blocks away from his bar back in 1850. For this version, he took an apple twist and replaced the nonpotable bitters with Campari.
Lemon and Campari aromas greeted the nose, and the lemon continued on into the sip where it worked well with the Curaçao's orange flavors. On the swallow, the Calvados' apple mingled with the Campari. Overall, the drink came across more as an Apple Sidecar than as a traditional Crusta. Moreover, the recipe made me think of Rendezvous' Scott Holliday who has made me many Crustas as well as variations that replace a spirit with Calvados.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

little ronnie

1 oz Zacapa 23 Year Rum
1 oz Punt e Mes
1/2 oz Zwack (*)
1 barspoon Lemon Juice
1 pinch Salt

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass. Twist an orange peel over the top.
(*) Another amaro like Averna might sub well here.

For a second drink at Eastern Standard, I asked bartender Seth Freidus for the Little Ronnie. Seth explained that the drink was "a friend of Little Giuseppe" created by Eastern Standard's Kevin Martin. The original drink was developed in a game of bartender telephone between Stephen Cole of Chicago's Violet Hour who crafted the Bitter Giuseppe and Boston's Misty Kalkofen who developed the Little Giuseppe. Both Giuseppes are Cynar based with the Bitter using sweet vermouth and the Little using Punt e Mes. I felt silly after asking Seth who the Ronnie in question was; Seth explained that the 'Ron' was the rum in the drink. The previous variation of the Little Giuseppe I had was Tyler Wang's An Epic and A Limerick at No. 9 Park and that post also contains the recipe for the original Little Giuseppe.
The drink offered up an orange oil aroma that led into the grape and caramel sip. The swallow showcased the Zwack and Punt e Mes herbal notes and ended dry and clean. The salt definitely softened the drink and minimized the bitter elements. Finally, as the drink warmed up, the Zacapa rum notes began to play a larger role in the flavor profile.

tuxedo cocktail #3

1 1/2 oz Bols Barrel-Aged Genever
3/4 oz Tio Pepe Fino Sherry
3/4 oz Martini & Rossi Dry Vermouth
1 barspoon Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
1 dash Regan's Orange Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Two Sundays ago, Andrea and I headed down to Eastern Standard for dinner. For a first drink, I asked bartender Kit Paschal for the Tuxedo Cocktail #3. This variation was created by Kevin Martin using the aged Genever from the Eastern Standard-Hawthorne-ICOB barrel and follows in series the Tuxedo #1 and #2 that appear in the Savoy Cocktail Book and earlier. The major changes in #3 from #1 and #2 were dropping the absinthe, cutting the dry vermouth with fino sherry, and swapping Genever for gin.
The orange twist brightened the Genever's malt aroma. The malt continued on into the sip where it mingled with the dry grape notes which I attributed more to the fino sherry. Next, the swallow contained the sherry, dry vermouth, and Genever flavors and ended with a smooth Maraschino finish.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

arbitrary nature of time

1 1/4 oz Wild Turkey 101 Rye (Rittenhouse 100)
1 oz Campari
3/4 oz Cherry Heering
1 dash Regan's Orange Bitters
2 dash Bittermens Mole Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass containing a large ice cube. Garnish with an orange twist.

After the Getaway, Andrea mentioned that we had not had a drink from Beta Cocktails in quite some time. Therefore, I began flipping through the pages until I spotted Maksym Pazuniak's Arbitrary Nature of Time. The combination of Campari and Cherry Heering reminded me of Maks' tasty Charlatan which used Punt e Mes instead of overproof whiskey as the base spirit.
The orange oils worked well with the Campari on the nose. The sip was vermouth-like with orange notes from the bitters, and the swallow offered up cherry, chocolate, and bitter Campari flavors. Suprisingly, the rye was harder to detect here than I expected, but it seemed to provide a sturdy backbone for the drink.

the getaway

1 oz Cruzan Black Strap Rum
1 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Cynar
1/2 oz Simple Syrup

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
Another drink that I found on BonAppetit was a Cynar Daiquiri called the Getaway by Derek Brown of the Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. The Getaway offered up dark black strap molasses aromas that were countered by the citrus' brightness. Similarly, the tart lemon countered the sweet molasses and caramel notes on the sip, and finally, the swallow offered the black strap rum merging with the Cynar's funky herbal notes. Overall, I was quite surprised at how light this drink was, although that matches the profile of some of Derek's other recipes such as the Bitter Peach.

h bomb

The theme for this month's Mixology Monday (MxMo LXVI) was picked by Ed of the Wordsmithing Pantagruel blog. The theme he chose was "(It's not easy) Bein' Green" which roughly translated into finding or concocting a drink recipe that uses at least one green ingredient or garnish. Ed explained, "Let's pay one last tribute to the greens of summer before the frosts come and our outdoor herb gardens give up the ghost for the winter... I'm giving you a wide berth on this one, anything using a green ingredient is fair play. There's not only the aforementioned Chartreuse; how about Absinthe Verte, aka the green fairy. Or Midori, that stuff is pretty damn green. Crème de menthe? Why not? Douglas Fir eau de vie? Bring it! Apple schnapps? Uh...well...it is green. ...Base, mixer, and or garnish; if it's green it's good. Surprise me."

While writing up a blurb about the Bikini Atoll on the Drink & Tell cocktail book's Facebook fanpage this past week, I looked up the drink that influenced it, the Nuclear Daiquiri. In that post, I referenced a recipe that Drink's Josey Packard found in Stan Jones' Complete Bar Guide called the H Bomb. The H Bomb has both Green and Yellow Chartreuse along with Bourbon and brandy. I am not sure what it is about Chartreuse that makes people think of radiation, but all of these recipes contain Green if not both Chartreuses.
H Bomb
• 3/4 oz Bourbon (Eagle Rare 10 Year)
• 3/4 oz Brandy (Foret)
• 1/2 oz Green Chartreuse
• 1/2 oz Yellow Chartreuse
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. In retrospect, straining into a rocks glass containing a large ice cube might be preferable here.
I never inquired how Josey made it to scale for Drink's three ounce pour; I guess that she might go with the house 1:1:1/2:1/2 ratio, although I have found equal parts recipes for the H Bomb on the web. I stuck with the recipe as written by Stan Jones for this one.
The Green Chartreuse's aromas greeted the nose. The Yellow Chartreuse was the next to show itself with a honeyed flavor that joined the Bourbon's malt on the sip. The swallow began with hot Bourbon notes that were followed by savory Yellow and spicy Green Chartreuse flavors. Finally, the drink ended with a sweet brandy finish. Here, the tension in the drink was between the hot proofiness of the spirits against the sweet and savory aspects. Perhaps serving this in a rocks glass with a large ice cube would allow the drink's heat to mellow as the ice melt. Overall, the H Bomb has a modern mixologist feel to it (or would that required a Fernet Branca rinse too?) even though the Complete Bartender was published in the late 1970s.

So cheers to Ed from Wordsmithing Pantagruel for hosting this month's Mixology Monday!

Friday, October 12, 2012

kaieteur swizzle

2 oz El Dorado 5 Year (Plantation Barbados)
1/2 oz Maple Syrup
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Velvet Falernum
2 dash Angostura Bitters

Build in a Collins glass and swizzle to mix and chill. Garnish with nutmeg and a mint sprig, and add a straw.

After the Havana Cocktail, I decided to keep with the tropical feel and make a drink from an old BonAppetit article featuring a recipe from Martin Cate of Smuggler's Cove in San Francisco. Martin's Swizzle was named after the Kaieteur Falls in central Guyana and features rum from that region. Due to dwindling Lemon Hart 80 supplies and no El Dorado 5 Year in town, I opted to use Plantion Barbados instead.
The mint and nutmeg garnishes filled the Swizzle's bouquet. The lime paired with the rum's caramel on the sip, and the rest of the rum appeared on the swallow along with maple, clove, and other spice notes.

havana cocktail

1 oz Gin (Hayman's Royal Dock)
1 oz Swedish Punsch (Kronan)
1/2 oz Apricot Liqueur (Rothman & Winter)
1/2 oz Lemon Juice

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. I added a lemon twist.

Two Fridays ago, I was flipping through Jeff Masson and Greg Boehm's Big Bartender's Book and spotted their adaptation of the Havana Cocktail. While I usually prefer non-adapted drinks, their version was the first time that the drink has appealed to me. The classic Havana Cocktail is half apricot liqueur that is balanced by a dash of lemon juice. In this adaptation, the apricot liqueur amount was decreased and the lemon juice quotient was increased to yield a more balanced drink for my palate.  Moreover, I reached for a bottle of navy strength gin to dry things out even further.
The lemon twist I added contributed to the aroma along with the apricot liqueur and hints of the Swedish Punsch. The sip was sweet and fruity from the lemon and apricot flavors, and the swallow was drier with gin and the Swedish Punsch's rum and tea tannin flavors. Finally, the drink finished with lingering spice notes.

great pumpkin

2 oz Southampton Pumpkin Ale (Wolaver's Pumpkin)
1 oz Rittenhouse 100 Rye
1 oz Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy
1/2 oz Maple Syrup
1 Whole Egg

Add to a mixing glass and swirl to decarbonate the beer. Shake once without ice and once with ice, and strain into a Fizz glass. Garnish with grated nutmeg.

After the Black Friars, I decided to make the Great Pumpkin from the P.D.T. Cocktail Book. I remember spotting this recipe a two or three years ago in an article by Jim Meehan and I even recommended it to a friend, but I never had pumpkin beer in the house until that week. When I spotted a Wolaver's mixed beer sampler at the store that included their pumpkin beer, I decided to give the 12 pack and this recipe a try.
The nutmeg greeted the nose and put the perfect spice notes on the rich, creamy sip that was full of apple, pumpkin, and maple flavors. The swallow offered up the rye and finished with even more maple notes. Indeed, Andrea declared that "It is the perfect Fall cocktail!"

:: single malt & scotch whisky extravaganza ::

Last night, I had the privilege of attending the Scotch Malt Whisky Society's Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza held at the Taj Mahal here in Boston. Right after arriving and receiving a booklet of the whiskies that would be tasted later, a tasting glass, and a token for cigars, I headed downstairs for a question and answer forum. At the door, I was asked the rhetorical question of whether I would like a dram of Aberfeldy 21 to sip while at the forum.

Besides the booklet and other goodies, they handed out cards to submit questions so that the audience could ask the panel of six brand ambassadors and one whisky guru. The questions they received were on everything from the basics to advanced questions about the future pricing market for rare whiskies. Here are the questions that I found of general interest:

What differences are there in peat?
There is peat growing through out the world. In Massachusetts, there are large fields in North Adams, and the largest fields in the United States are in Minnesota. The Irish have peat that they will sometimes use for their whiskeys. Basically, peat is the flora that lives, dies, and decomposes. When visiting a distillery, see what is growing around it. In the Highlands, this is coniferous trees, on Islay this is seaweed, and in Orkney this is heather. Indeed, geography has a big influence on the peat and thus in the whiskey, for the germinated wet barley will soak up these notes like a sponge from the peat smoke.

How to develop a nose?
• Taste/smell whisky frequently.
• Taste in a flight. Comparison and contrast will help to bring out extra flavors. Also, go back and taste the first whisky again at the end to shed new light on it.
• Start with simple notes like smokey and fruity before trying to break it down to what type of smoke or whether it is green apple or lemon. Learn to develop a vocabulary.
• Trust your instincts, and have confidence even when your notes betray what is written.
• Like people have a dominant eye, there may be a dominant nostril. Do not be afraid to plug one up and then the other. For example, some pick up sweeter notes from one and spicier notes from the other.
• Sometimes a little water will help bring out extra aromas.

What exactly is the grain whisky in a blend contributing?
In a blend, the grain whisky is contributing to the mouthfeel and the single malt to the spicier flavors. Often it is 40% single malt and 60% grain whisky. Grain whisky is made more efficiently, but it has its own character and complexity. 93% of all Scotch is a blend with Dewars and Famous Grouse being the top sellers in the United States and Scotland, respectively.

For tasting, I tried 24 different Scotches. One of the most interesting experiments was tasting the whole Glenmorangie series. I stayed at the table since the brand ambassador seemed excited to showcase the original 10 year as well as the same Scotch then aged for additional 2 years in other barrels.
Glenmorangie 10 Year - Floral aroma of honeysuckle. Soft with citrus notes, especially lemon, on the taste.
Glenmorangie Lasanta Sherry Cask 12 Year - Raisin notes on aroma. Walnut and toffee flavors.
Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban Port Cask 12 Year - Manadarine orange and sandlewood spice aroma. Chocolate and walnut flavors.
Glenmorangie Nectar d'Or Sauternes Cask 12 Year - Coconut and vanilla aromas. Creamy and lemon flavors with a ginger spice finish.
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the port one, and I was pleased to have tried a Sauternes one for it was a novel cask finish for me.

Some of the most intriguing Scotches of the night were at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society's table. Alan Shayne, president of the society, traced back the group's history 30 years when Pip Hill founded it in Edinborough. Pip gained an intense interest in single cask, single malt whiskies as opposed to batched, chilled-filtered, and diluted ones. Some of these nonfiltered single casks had some unique character to them that needed to be celebrated. Throughout the night, I tried all five of their offerings that ranged from light Lowlands to intense coastal ones. Each of the cask bottlings had unique names like Laundry in the bakery, Burnt granary toast with bramble jelly, and Seaweed, sushi, and Arbroath smokies. Of all the whiskies I tasted that night, these five examples had the most discernible aromatic and tasting notes per spirit. Indeed, the complexity in these single cask nonfiltered offerings was truly stunning.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

black friars

50% Gin (1 1/2 oz GrandTen Wire Works)
25% Dry Vermouth (3/4 oz Noilly Prat)
10% Bénédictine (2 tsp or 1/3 oz)
10% Curaçao (2 tsp or 1/3 oz Pierre Ferrand)
5% Brandy (1 tsp or 1/6 oz Foret)
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Serve with a cherry.

For cocktails a few Wednesdays ago, we began the evening with the Black Friars from the United Kingdom Bartenders Guild's Approved Cocktails book. The drink bears similarity to my Black Friar that I created for a Plymouth Gin contest. It also shares a likeness to the classic Caprice as well as Eastern Standard's King's Yellow and the old Latin Quarter's Joan Blondell.
The Black Friars' dry vermouth worked well with the Curaçao's orange and the Angostura's spice on the nose. The white wine and orange sip led into gin, Bénédictine, and Angostura flavors on the swallow. Overall, it was a bit more orange than a Caprice but still in the same neighborhood.

penn

1 1/2 oz Rittenhouse 100 Rye
3/4 oz Punt e Mes
1/2 oz Nux Alpina Walnut Liqueur
1/4 oz Avèze Gentiane Liqueur

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass.

The drink that Andrea had at Brick & Mortar was off of their supplementary Ivy League Cocktails menu. Some of that list were classics or modifications thereof, but some of the drinks, like the Penn and Dartmouth, needed to be crafted. There was also an addition to the eight drinks of a shot of Dr. McGillicuddy's for the up-and-coming Ivy, Bunker Hill Community College. The Penn utilized Rittenhouse Rye from Pennsylvania for theme and balanced its heat with some sweet, fruity, and nutty elements.
The Punt e Mes and Avèze's bitter herbal elements came through on the nose. The rye's malt worked well with the Punt e Mes' grape on the sip, and the rest of the rye shined through on the swallow. In addition, the Punt e Mes' bitter notes merged with the Nux Alpina walnut flavors on the swallow, and the drink finished with a lingering gentian herbalness.

in vida veritas

1 1/2 oz Del Maguey Mezcal Vida
3/4 oz Nux Alpina
3/4 oz Zirbenz Stone Pine Liqueur
1/2 oz Bénédictine
1 dash Fee's Whiskey Barrel-aged Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass. Twist an orange peel over the top.

A few Tuesdays ago, we stopped in at Brick & Mortar after dinner for a nightcap. The drink I asked Kenny Belanger for was a new menu item, the In Vida Veritas. Obviously a pun on the classic "in wine [there is the] truth" which is appropriate given Misty Kalkofen's adoration of Vida and other mezcals.
The In Vida Veritas offered an orange and herbal aroma to me and an orange, walnut, and mezcal aroma to Andrea. The sip's caramel notes were followed by mezcal, pine, and herbal flavors on the swallow and a cinnamon-tinged finish.Furthermore, as the drink warmed up, the finish gained a mint accent from the Bénédictine. Overall, I was impressed at how well the Zirbenz and mezcal paired, and they seemed to complement the other's prickly edges such that there was a stone pine and agave synergy.

yellow glow

1/3 Dry Gin (3/4 oz GrandTen's Wire Works)
1/3 Yellow Chartreuse (3/4 oz)
1/3 Sweet Vermouth (3/4 oz Cocchi)

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail. Garnish with a stuffed olive (omitted).

A few Mondays ago for the cocktail hour, I flipped through the 1940 The How And When cocktail book and spotted the Yellow Glow. I was curious for it seemed like a Bijou with Yellow Chartreuse instead of the Green Chartreuse and orange bitters.
The Yellow Glow greeted my nose with a savory herbal aroma from the Yellow Chartreuse. The sweet grape sip was followed by gin and Yellow Chartreuse flavors colored by more grape notes on the swallow. Overall, it was less bristly than a Bijou and reminded me a little of the Strega and dry vermouth Berkeley Hotel Cocktail but with more grape flavors.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

burning ice

1 1/2 oz Laphroaig 10 Year Scotch
3/4 oz Pedro Ximenez Sherry
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Swedish Punsch
1 barspoon Kübler Absinthe
2 dash Peychaud's Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a rocks glass.

While I was drinking my Front Street at No. 9 Park, bartender Ted Kilpatrick was working the restaurant floor. He came by and mentioned his frustrations of serving drinks at the Whisky Live event and how many of the people there did not get his cocktail. Some of the guests had two problems with his drink, the Burning Ice. The first I could see, since not everyone likes fennel-anise flavors. The second was more absurd when they complained about the smoke notes given that it was at a Scotch event after all. While he made the drink at the event with Ardbeg, they were making it at No. 9 with Laphroaig. With Scotch, lemon, Swedish Punsch, and absinthe, the drink reminded me the Modern Cocktail. So when it was time for my second drink, I asked bartender Sam Olivari for the Burning Ice.
The Scotch's smoke greeted my nose along with the absinthe's anise and hints of the sherry's grape. The lemon-grape sip had a thicker mouthfeel than I expected perhaps from the sherry's fullness. And the swallow was a combination of the smokey Scotch and rich sherry that was punctuated by light herbal notes from the absinthe and Peychaud's Bitters.

front street

2 oz Sazerac 6 Year Rye
3/4 oz S. Maria al Monte Amaro
1/2 oz Cinnamon Syrup
2 dash Bitter Science Mole Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass. Flame an orange twist over the top.
A few Sundays ago, I stopped into No. 9 Park when bartender Sam Olivari was at the stick. For a first drink, Sam suggested a Toronto variation named after one of the Toronto neighborhoods called Front Street. The drink's orange twist's oils joined the cinnamon on the aroma along with an herbal note from the amaro at the end of the sniff. The sip was rich with caramel and chocolate notes, and the swallow presented the rye and an interesting collision of cinnamon and S. Maria al Monte flavors. With this amaro-cinnamon combination, I was reminded of Russell House Tavern's Wigglesworth which is also a Toronto variation but with Fernet Branca and apple-cinnamon syrup.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

:: best moments of the boston cocktail summit ::

After each Tales of the Cocktail, I make a highlights post about the event. Usually, I compose these thoughts over the week as well as write an outline at the airport or on the flight. With the event not requiring more than a 10 minute bus ride down the street and only being a few days long, I took the past few days to reflect instead. In this post, I also included events that were planned around the Boston Cocktail Summit including the Origin spirits tasting and Speed Rack events on Wednesday and The Thing formal on Thursday. Here they are in semi-random order:

Most Sentimental Moment - At The Thing charity event at Locke-Ober, Deep Ellum's Max Toste was wearing the bow tie that he used to wear as a bus boy working at Locke-Ober as a young teenager. In fact, the man who trained and supervised him was at the restaurant that night.
Best Long-Time-No-See - Lauren Clark of DrinkBoston fame is back in town! I spotted her at the Origin tasting event and saw her throughout the week. Lucky for us, she is back on the Right Coast.
Most Symbolic Drink - Drinking Boston's symbolic drink, the Ward Eight, at Locke-Ober where it was created 114 years ago. I had three Ward Eights that day, and the one that John Gertsen made us at the downtown Boston talk actually tasted the best (John's theory is that orange juice and whiskey are a poor combination).
Punch - I had the honor of drinking bowls of punch made by Dave Wondrich on two occasions. They were not the fanciest of punches, but it did feel like it was being crafted by an artist.
Distillers - There was a stronger than average showing of distillers who I met at talks, events, and tasting rooms. Of the local ones, I met the distillers from Privateer, Turkey Shore, Ryan & Wood, and Whistlepig. I may take some of them up on the offers to visit the distilleries.
Most Absurd - Fernet Branca Menta luge?
Best Thing Out of Gary Regan's Mouth - At the rebuttal section of the Gaz Regan roast, Gaz held up a large stick and asked if we knew what it was. "This [stick] will be auctioned later with proceeds going to the Museum of the American Cocktail. It was pulled out of Paul Pacult's ass." However, Pacult might have gotten the better of him that night.
Best Tour of Boston - Given by writer Warren Bobrow while we were on the shuttle bus going from Cambridge to Boston. He started telling us about his crazy college years in Boston during the early-mid 1980s. He also asked many of the luminaries to pose with his 80-plus year old German drinking gnome statue. See Klaus the Soused Gnome's Facebook fan page for pics.
Best Event Setting - Well the Locke-Ober for being the Locke-Ober, but the Bacardi event at the Sonesta impressed me for they decorated the entry to the terrace to look like the side of an airplane replete with stewardesses. The waitresses inside with cute Cuban-inspired outfits and the lady handrolling cigars were also nice touches. Above is Sam Treadway competing in their competition (which he won) and Ran Duan is in the picture (who placed second).
Books - I'm excited that I bought or traded for two great new books. Stephanie Schorow's Drinking Boston (out November 1st, but available at the Boston Shaker now), and Joseph Carlin's Cocktails: A Global History.
Best Costume - This has to go to Drink's own Will Thompson who wore a strangely surreal walrus mask at times during The Thing when he was not doing bartending shifts. I guess a "salty attire" formal can be interpreted as salty sea mammal as well.

:: whiskeys and the bar ::

On Friday morning, I went to hear David Wondrich and Wayne Curtis talk about New England Rum in a talk entitled "Medford Gold." Instead of a summary, I will behoove you to read Wayne's And a Bottle of Rum book. And if you want supplemental learning materials, go taste the Old Ipswich, Privateer, and Berkshire Mountain rums like we did. Wayne and David's conclusion was that the new style of New England rum has the consensus flavor of molasses notes and a dry tang at the end. There was even a suggestion that New England rum should fight to get its designation back and join the ranks of Bourbon again.

The middle talk of the day was held at the Citizen Public House which hosts one of the larger whisk(e)y collections in town. This made the perfect setting for the session entitled "Whiskey and the Bar" given by Sean Frederick, Chad Arnholt, and John Gertsen. While we did taste six whiskeys, the true meat of the talk revolved on how to teach customers about whiskeys. Indeed, it was a bartenders' take on the spirit and not the distillers' story.

Selling whiskey can be broken down into 4 points:

1. Confidence - The right attitude and approach is needed for salesmanship.
• Genuine enthusiasm and honesty.
• Need to stand behind the products you love.
• Learning needs to be incremental.
• Optimistic mindset: there is a whiskey for everyone.

2. Product Knowledge - Knowing what sets each spirit apart.
• How is the whiskey made including what grains are used, pot vs. column stilled, all malted or grain neutral spirits mixed in, filtered or not, age in barrel, barrel type.
• Knowing the profile: sweeter, spicier, peated, hot/high proof.
• Understanding terroir especially with Scotch.
• Do not think about whiskey in one or two dimensions. Think three: mash bill (sweet to spicy), proof, and barrel. There are also intangibles like locale.

3. Be a Good Shepherd - Keeping people close to their comfort zones.
• Know which are good gateway products such as those with lower proof, lighter, more grain & less barrel. Often Irish works well here.
• Educate but do not be overly aggressive.
• Take your own tastes out of the equation.
• Just because a person drinks it, does not mean they want to learn about it.
• Do not leave them with a headache: quantity, strength, and the amount of food they have had that night should be taken into consideration.
• Thread your selections so one whiskey order will lead into the next logically. i.e.: connecting wheated Bourbons into a flight or succession. 
• Ask the customer if they are here for one whiskey or for four. Knowing the path length is important.
• You cannot go backwards in whiskey profiles, so as Misty Kalkofen says about spirits tasting, "Don't blow your wad." Leave yourself room to navigate.

4. Communication
• Know your blind spots and do not bullshit guests.
• Do not just ask what they like, but why they like it.
• Know your mass market brands -- you need to know the basics before the esoterics.
• Ubiquity does not necessarily mean poor quality.
• Do not be a whiskey hipster -- just because a lot of people like it does not mean it isn't worth drinking.
• Getting the bottle on the bar is your friend. Let them read the label, take photos to put on Twitter/Facebook, use Google on their phones to learn more. This will allow you to help other guests as they make their decision or drink their glass of whiskey.

Monday, October 8, 2012

:: gaz regan's tales ::

After the talk at Silvertone on Thursday, I made my way over to Storyville with bartender Ian Strickland who will soon be working at Pigalle. The title of the talk was supposed to be "Tales from Behind the Stick," but Gary Regan decided to do a talk about a period when he was not a bartender but a bar manager. During 1988-92, he was the manager at the North Star Pub frequented by the businessmen of Wall Street and the tourists of the South Street Seaport. The new title was, "Of Mushy Peas, Men as Tall as Trees, and Singing Spies in the South Street Seaport." As for Gaz's commentary on being a manager instead of a bartender, it was less money and more responsibility, so don't do it. The focus was not making drinks, but instead how to promote events and extend hospitality to bring in more business as well as to make the guests' experience more memorable.

Devon, the owner of this British pub, loved to hold outrageous events to get press. The first one in the talk's title was mushy peas. Stuffy, one of the bartenders, taunted the North Star Pub's chef that they could not be a true British pub if they did not have mushy peas on the menu. The chef agreed and decided to make them. Devon and Gary got into the act by making this into a major media production. In the guest list was every food and drink writer they could come up with to introduce them to this British comfort food. However, the production value was deceiving. Since the silver serving covered bowl did not reach the rental minimum, they also rented a pair of large silver candelabras to place on either side of it. When it came time to pass out samples after much Scotch and food, it was served in absurdly small demitasse cups with small spoons. Just as the media was figuring out that they might have just been tricked, Gary told them that the blandness was the mark of authenticity. I guess the above sentiment reminds me of the Sex Pistols' John Lydon quote, "Have you ever had the feeling that you've been had?" especially since Gaz played Sid Vicious' rendition of Sinatra's "My Way" as we had our cocktails before the talk began.

Speaking of cocktails, midway through the talk, Gary informed the room that he was in need of a Negroni. Luckily, Storyville bartender Ryan McGrale saved the day.  As I later learned during Gaz's roast, this was nothing new.

There were plenty of other stories that Gaz spun about the years at the pub including the singing spy story about promoting a World War II-themed night to give the guests the feel of London during the bombing raids (replete with hiding underneath the tables with their drinks after the air raid siren went off). And the steak and kidney pie day is a good one that also appears in his The Bartender's Gin Compendium as well as on his website. But the one that touched me the most was about promoting a miniskirt competition of all things. Regan needed a host but had no budget. He had learned that one of his heroes was now living in New York City, and he decided to find him in the white pages and give him a call.

That person was Quentin Crisp. Quentin was a flamboyant gay man who in London during the 1920s used to dress up in women's clothing, go out, get beat up, return home to fix up his makeup, and hit the streets again since no one could tell him who he was. Quentin described his life during that time in his Naked Civil Servant mémoires. Gary got through on the phone to Quentin who was then in his eighties and eventually convinced him to do the gig for a car ride over to the pub, dinner, and drinks. Quentin lived next to the Hells Angels club on 12th Street and told Gary to tell the driver to look for guys as tall as trees and twice as shady.

A lot of Regan's stories factored into his mindful bartending philosophies even though he was not being a bartender during this period. However, making the customer, the press, or the flamboyantly gay man in your establishment feel special was all the same art. With a low budget, the promotion of the absurd made the event differ from the every day. I was reminded of the cocktail parties we used to throw and how the themes had to be unusual. A surrealist New Years replete with surrealist games, strange piles of objects, and the like, a Groundhog's Day cocktail party, a Johnny Appleseed's birthday punch event, and the infamous International Migratory Bird Day gala that ended up in DrinkBoston. None of these themes cost that much more to do over a regular party, but the guests felt like there was something extra in the experience when the theme was that unusual.

:: the history and change of downtown boston bar culture ::

After focusing on the Colonial to pre-Prohibition era drinking life in Boston with David Wondrich, I moved on to my next talk held at Silvertone's Chez Freddie Lounge. I was really excited for this talk given by John Gertsen, Ryan McGrale, Tom Mastricola, and Josh Childs, and they most certainly did not disappoint. The title was "The History and Change of the Downtown Bar Culture."

Josh Childs started the talk with a little history about the space we were in. Silvertone was built at the turn of the century; in the pre-Prohibition days, it was the Century Grill's tap room and was one of the 35 bars in the downtown Boston area. After Prohibition, the space was the Chez Freddie Lounge from the 1930s to 1970s. In the room we were in was a Chez Freddie sign from the 1950s that was discovered in the Parker House's basement; Josh could not resist removing from their inventory system for a mere $10.

Josh opened up Silvertone 15 years ago, and he spoke of what the norm was then. Roses Lime Cordial and sour mix instead of fresh juice, no stirring only shaking, and garnish trays that ought to have been tossed a shift or more ago. The revelation came when Josh and Tom Mastricola from No. 9 Park went to bar camp in Oregon. When Tom saw them fresh juicing citrus, he made it his goal to switch and to proselytize the practice. Josh went so far as to declare that Tom was the one single person who helped start the Boston craft cocktail movement.

It was time for the first drink, so John Gertsen took over and described Boston's cocktail, the Ward Eight, that had been created in the downtown bar of Locke-Ober in 1898. Back then in the end of the 19th century, color was beginning to enter into the cocktails so the grenadine was a big deal. Similar drinks to the War Eight were being made elsewhere, but the history of the drink helped to make the recipe survive. In the early 20th century, the drink was often adapted to show off with elaborate garnishes of citrus, berries, and mint sort of how foams were big in the mid-2000s. John's variation can be found here; he left out the orange juice because he finds that while it works well with Champagne and Amaretto, it does not mesh with whiskey. Therefore, he replaced the juice with orange peel curl and orange bitters garnishes. Indeed, of the three Ward Eights I had that day, John's was certainly the best probably for that reason.

With a drink in hand, we could now continue on properly. Tom Mastricola explained how Barbara Lynch was a long time friend of his from South Boston and how she wanted to open a fine dining establishment in Boston in a way that did not exist here yet. The bar traditionally would be used as a waiting area to get into the restaurant; No. 9 Park wanted to change that by making the bar not only another major revenue center for the restaurant but by making it a dining space as well.
The drink that started the No. 9 bar program in motion is still their No. 1 best selling drink, the Palmyra. The Palmyra is a reference to a big leaf meant to fan and cool you off. It still rings of freshness which was not something that was happening much at the time it was created; had it been created elsewhere, Roses would have most likely been used. It soon became part of the first of many cocktail flights; the other two in that flight trio were the No. 10 (see below) and the Pear Martini. With the cocktail flights with three 2 oz cocktails, the staff could introduce the drinkers to new flavors such as No. 10's Campari.
Palmyra
• 3 oz Rain Vodka
• 3/4 oz Mint Syrup
• 3/4 oz Lime Juice
Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wedge laid over a paired segment of mint leaves such that it looks like a winged bird on the edge of the glass.

No. 10
• 2 1/2 oz Tanqueray 10 Gin
• 1 oz Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice
• 3/4 oz Campari
Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
Garrett Harker, No. 9's general manager at the time, told Gertsen after Gertsen joined in 2002 to purchase and study books by Dale DeGroff, David Wondrich, and the classic 1916-17 Hugo Ensslin's Recipes for Mixed Drinks. These led to John to help create an Aviation flight that I recall trying in 2007.

Silvertone's history was intertwined with No. 9 for Silvertone for it was the end of the night place for many people at No. 9 and other establishments in the area and often the beginning of many bad mornings. It took on a living room-like vibe but with a higher-that-average drink intelligentsia for the time. People were drinking pastis and water, for example. Tom declared that Garrett, No. 9, and Silvertone were the reason that Fernet Branca took off in Boston in 1998. The match was sparked at No. 9, they told Silvertone to carry it and thus the kindling was lit, and the fire took off at Eastern Standard. Ryan McGrale's first job out of college was working at No. 9. He described how he learned the art of the bar at No. 9 Park, but he learned about family and camaraderie at Silvertone by hanging out to the wee hours of the night. When writer Warren Bobrow asked, "Is [Silvertone] the Cure of New Orleans?", Gertsen replied, "This is more the cause than the cure." Other post-shift establishments were cited such as the Franklin and the B-Side Lounge as places where people got together, talked, and tried interesting bottles and combinations of spirits.

For the fourth drink of the event, John served at Cognac Old Fashioned. He declared that removing the muddled fruit from the Old Fashioned equation was a very big paradigm shift in the cocktail scene akin to fresh fruit and stirring straight spirits drinks. Of course this cocktail was followed by a goodbye toast of a standard post-shift drink of a Miller High Life pony and a shot of Fernet Branca. Josh ended the event with describing how Cedric Adams was pouring the first Green Chartreuse around town at Silvertone and how he got the ball moving with that. And how there were not twenty great bartenders in town, but 250. "Bartenders are like mothers, there are a lot of great ones."

Sunday, October 7, 2012

:: greasing the hub ::

The first talk on Thursday at the Boston Cocktail Summit was Greasing the Hub by David Wondrich. Wondrich took a subsection of his Imbibe! and Punch research and crafted a very Boston-centric view on drink culture from the Colonial years into modern day. The talk started a few minutes late since Wondrich refused to begin until the drinks arrived. Once they did, he fixed a bowl of punch and toasted the official start of the Boston Cocktail Summit.

Initially, the Colonists drank in an English style especially in the 18th century with small beers replacing water up and down the social strata. Gentlemen and those with social aspirations drank wine, but it was rather expensive and there was not a robust wine smuggling industry as there was in England. Most of the wine drank was fortified by wine merchants who altered the taste to the British palate as well as making transport across the Atlantic easier. Originally, the British thought that the American colonies were their hope to start their own wine industry for the British Empire; however, they could not get the native grapes to taste good. Moreover, almost every variety of European grape died for the phylloxera louse to which the local grapes were resistant were able to ravage the noble vines' root stock.

The British and their colonies were not big drinkers of distilled spirits until the 1660s coinciding with the East India Trading Company's activity. The sailors brought their love of punch to the colonies, and through manipulating components of spirit, sugar, citrus, and water, a balance akin to wine could be achieved. Punch quickly became the drink of everyone from rich gentlemen to the common man.

New England taverns had strong political affiliations which was something that Christine Sismondo discusses in America Walks into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops. These taverns sold punch, flip (not the egg version but the rum and beer combination heated with a red-hot poker), Tom & Jerry, sling, and glog. Basically a lot of egg, beer, and rum-rich drinks. Whiskey and fruit brandies came later once transportation from the grain and orchard growing regions to the people-rich seaboard took off thanks to the Erie Canal and trains. By 1702, the New England Almanac firmly supported that liquor culture here was strong.

Boston played a strong role in the cocktail triangle which had Albany and New York as the other two corners. The first reference in print of the cocktail in Boston was in the 1810s-20s. The first landmark of the Boston cocktail was the Tremont House. Built in 1829, it was the first modern hotel replete with indoor plumbing and key-locks for the individual rooms. The bar there was so notable that Charles Dickens wrote about it his 1842 travelogue American Notes for General Circulation. Not only did the gin slings, sangarees, cobblers, and cocktails catch his eye, but Dickens was introduced to the art of perpendicular drinking. Without the need to sit, more people had access to the bartenders' attention as people could approach and then move away to make room at the bar. Dickens drew a bit of attention to the Tremont, and his stories brought in celebrities. William Pitcher soon became one of Boston's celebrity bartenders with his time at the Tremont starting around 1860. Around 1855, the Parker House opened up across the street from the Tremont Hotel and later became the best bar in town.

During the 1840s, ice began to enter into the cocktail equation. Frederic Tudor became known as the Ice King and started harvesting, storing, and transporting around the country and world. His source ponds surround Boston such as Walden Pond, Fresh Pond, Spy Pond, and others. This ice trade began to cool the drinks of the Gold Rush saloons and help to change the face of the cocktail as well as advance the cobbler and julep.

There were not many Boston-specific cocktails recorded though. One was the Worthington Cocktail which was only captured by name only. Of the two major newspapers in town, the Boston Herald was a Temperance paper, and the Globe was not and frequently sent reporters to get news at the bars. This news was light and gossipy to fill space in the publication. The Herald company owned various properties including one that housed a bar. The Globe decided to create a drink a drink named after the Herald's top guy, and they would describe drinks at bars as being good, but not as strong as a Worthington Cocktail. The Temperance movement in the late 19th century did affect drinking in Boston. The governor banned perpendicular drinking and tried to ban Sunday drinking, but this was hard to enforce. While many women's organizations were Temperance related, Boston had its own toast club where ladies would drink Green Swizzles and other libations and speak of the chosen topic of the day; they pre-dated the Boston LUPEC group by well over a century but with a similar purpose.
Boston did play a role in cocktail tool technology. The Hawthorne Cafe opened up in Boston in 1890 and the Hawthorne strainer was produced through their ingenuity in 1892. Above is an original strainer from Wondrich's collection.

The best known cocktail from Boston is surely the Ward 8 created at the Locke-Ober in 1898. Lucius Beebe described how the sporting life was strongly entrenched at the Locke-Ober during this time, but the drink was created for the political crowd at a victory dinner before the election even took place. The first evidence of what was in the drink was in 1906 where A Bachelor's Cupboard describes how it was sweetened with grenadine. By 1915, it became the Boston cocktail with variations that used raspberry syrup or Bourbon. Wondrich served the room a Ward 8 -- the first of three that day for me. The next was by Gertsen and crew at my next talk, and the last was at the Locke-Ober itself for a cocktail formal that night! The last Boston drink that was mentioned in the talk was the Periodista, an obscure concoction created in Cuba in the 1940s that found its new home in Boston in the mid-1990s.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

:: origin tasting event ::

Good morning and welcome to the Boston Cocktail Summit!  Yesterday were a pair of greeter events, the Origin Beverage Company fall portfolio tasting during the afternoon and the SpeedRack competition at night.  I am going to give my highlights to the tasting events before I run off to catch my bus to hear David Wondrich's "Greasing the Hub" talk.  These are new to me spirits that stood out.

Delirio Reposado Mezcal - While their joven was good, their reposado had fruit, vanilla, and smoke notes in harmony on the smell and swallow.
Clandestine Absinthe - Perhaps not new to me since I had a taste back in 2009 at Tales of the Cocktail, but my first formal Boston taste.  Peppermint and anise notes; like St. George's Absinthe, the other botanicals diminish the anise-fennel dominance in a pleasant way.
St. George's Single Malt - Speaking of their distillery, I had not tried their whiskeys.  They approached their single malt like a beer by selecting roasted barley for richer flavors and aromas.  Smoke was present from alder and beech but was not dominant.  Apparently aged in used Bourbon, port, and sherry casks and French oak casks, but such nuances were lost in my small tasting dram in a big plastic cup.
Uprising Whiskey - Also a beer-driven brew process to proceed the distillation, the Sons of Liberty Distillery in Rhode Island made the mash like an unhopped stout so the roast notes came through. Unique.
Imbue Vermouths - There were two that I tasted and both were as good as I had heard. The Bitter Sweet was Lillet Blanc-like but with a well-balanced chamomile and tangerine notes on a Pinot Gris-base.  The Petal & Thorn took it up a notch with bitter notes though; chamomile and orange on the front with a bitter wormwood-cinnamon like finish.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

of thee i sing, baby

1 1/2 oz Jamaican Rum (Coruba Dark)
1/2 oz Cointreau
1/2 oz Grenadine
Juice 1/2 Lemon (3/4 oz)

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry and a small sprig of mint.

Two Thursdays ago for the cocktail hour, I began flipping through Bottom's Up when I spotted the Of Thee I Sing, Baby. The drink was created by actor William Gaxton and named after a stage musical he was in during the 1930s. What drew me to the recipe was that it had a resemblance to the Periodista with grenadine and lemon instead of apricot liqueur and lime.
The mint garnish contributed to the drink's bouquet along with the fruitiness of the citrus and grenadine and the funkiness of the Jamaican rum. The citrus and pomegranate notes continued on into the sip and were chased by the flavorful dark rum on the swallow. The lemon certainly took the drink in a different direction from a Daiquiri or Periodista, but it definitely worked in this combination.

fox hunt

1 1/2 oz Pimm's No. 1
1/2 oz Tanqueray Gin
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Simple Syurp
1 dash Peychaud's Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a coupe glass rinsed with Cynar. Garnish with 7 drops of Peychaud's Bitters.
Two Wednesdays ago, I searched through the online recipe list from the Violet Hour bar in Chicago and spotted the Fox Hunt. While it was similar to other sodaless Pimm's Cup recipes, the Cynar rinse was enough to convinced me to make this one. Once mixed, the Fox Hunt greeted the nose with anise from the Peychaud's and a little fruitiness from the Pimm's; in fact, the anise aroma made Andrea ask if there was a dash of absinthe in there. Next, the lemon-berry sip was followed by gin on the swallow that was accented by a bitter herbal hint from the Cynar and spice from the Peychaud's.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

pirate slave

2 oz J.M. Rhum Agricole Blanc
3/4 oz Punt e Mes
1/2 oz Campari
1 tsp Cane Syrup (Sirop J.M.) (*)
1 dash Regan's Orange Bitters
1 dash Fee's Orange Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass containing a large cube. Garnish with a flamed orange twist.
(*) Sub a 2:1 simple syrup

Two Tuesdays ago, I decided to make the Pirate Slave that I had spotted on Imbibe Magazine's website. The recipe was created by Colin Shearn and Al Sotack at Philadelphia's Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. Indeed, the rhum agricole, Campari, and aromatized wine combination reminded me of Scott Holliday's Defensio, so I was definitely willing to give this one a go.
The Pirate Slave greeted the senses with an orange aroma with a bitter undertone. A dry grape sip led into the rhum agricole blending into the Campari flavors on the swallow; perhaps the Punt e Mes functioned to smooth over this rhum-Campari transition. In addition, the drink was a bit more rhum-forward at first, but with some ice melt, the Campari began to take the lead. Overall, I never expected a rhum agricole Negroni to be this well balanced.