Wednesday, December 31, 2014

:: fred's top 10 cocktail moments of 2014 ::

In 2010, I was asked what my favorite drink that year was and I decided not only to start a list of my favorite drinks I had out on the town and in at the home bar, but I decided to list the top moments of the previous 12 months.

1. Still making a living at it
The end of this year marks the 19th month of me being at Russell House Tavern with 18 months of that being a full time bartender. I began my run as a barback to get acquainted with the restaurant and the industry and to await an opening on the barstaff. I am thankful for being given this opportunity to make the transition from blogger to bartender. Perhaps my observations last year make better light of it.

2. Created some drinks
Over the last year, three of my creations have graced the cocktail menus. The Endicott Cobbler replaced the Chutes & Ladders and made it onto the St. George Spirits webpage. The Mytoi Gardens made it onto the Tiki section of the brunch cocktail menu, and I compete with this in the Diplomatico Rum competition this fall. Finally, the Ask the Dust Scaffa hit not only the menu but the Del Maguey Mezcal recipe page. There were several others that I created this year that made the blog or just my menu notebook.
3. Got honored in the Improper Bostonian once and twice by Gaz Regan
Back in April, I was one of 12 bartenders to be featured in the Pouring Reign article by MC Slim JB. The photoshoot part was a novel experience, but the interview was fine since it was done via email. I even wrote up my outtakes. Moreover, one of my answers about drinks I don't like caused someone to start a ChowHound thread about me (note: I still don't know the difference between a Baybreeze and a Seabreeze without looking it up). Gaz Regan honored me two ways this year. The first was to interview me and the second was to include my Chutes & Ladders in this year's 101 Best New Cocktails.

4. I read a lot
While putting in the hours improves speed, grace, and people skills, there is still a lot of knowledge that needs to be learned from others. My original goal for self-betterment was a book per month and I exceeded that by 50%.
1. Garrett Oliver's The Brewmaster's Table. Great discussion of styles and food pairing ideas. Bought because I heard John Mayer made everyone at Local 149 read it when he was the bar manager there.
2. Rosie Schaap's Drinking with Men. A great memoir about finding one's place in the drinking community.
3. Eric Asimov's How to Love Wine. Wine is one of my weakest links in the spirits game, so I sought the wisdom of one of the greats.
4. Tom Acitelli's The Audacity of Hops. An easy to read history of the craft beer revolution, and a great example of how history repeats itself with small brewery blunders and successes.
5. Randy Mosher's Tasting Beer. An elegant comparison of different beer styles with great charts and graphics including a malt (original gravity) vs. hops comparison of different beer types.
6. Pete Hamill's A Drinking Life. A memoir about drinking, coming of age, and aging that came to me via Michael Dietsch's 2012 recommendations.
7. William Grimes' Straight Up or On the Rocks: The Story of the American Cocktail. One of the better social and historical overviews on the cocktail.
8. Lauren Clark's Crafty Bastards. A New England-focused history of beer then and now from one of the original Boston cocktail bloggers.
9. Maureen Ogle's Ambitious Brew. A story of the politics, marketing, and history of America as told through beer.
10. Jeffrey Morganthaler's The Bar Book. A cocktail book that takes on technique and rationale more than providing a medley of delectable tipple recipes.
11. Kevin Liu's Craft Cocktails at Home. A book that takes technique and rationale of cocktails even further... with science! My glass chilling experiments made it in there with a bunch of other nods to this blog as well.
12. Danny Meyer's Setting the Table. A must-read book on hospitality and business for anyone in the restaurant industry (or perhaps any business industry, for that matter).
13. Philip Van Munching's Beer Blast. One of the clan who imported Heineken into the U.S. tells the successes and follies of big beer such as light beer and Zima, respectively.
14. Anistatia Miller's Shaken Not Stirred. One of the two tomes on the Martini that discusses history and modern trends.
15. Michael Dietsch's Shrubs. The book traces shrubs from historical drink to modern cocktail ingredient; I was quite surprised by a long quote of mine taking up all of page 50.
16. Adam Rogers' Proof. The science of booze all relayed through a handful of thoughtful stories.
17. Sean Lewis' We Make Beer. The culture of microbrewers and their fans told via vignettes and visits.
18. Talia Baiocchi's Sherry. One part encyclopedia on the style and the producers and one part history of the drink; glad it gave the nod to modern mixologists for reviving a love of sherry. Replete with classic and recent sherry cocktail recipes, too.
5. Visited new bars
The Boston cocktail bar scene grew and I paid my respects this year to Viale, Fairsted Kitchen, Alden & Harlow, Ames Street Deli, Merrill & Co., and Highball Lounge. I also finally visited Bronwyn, Shojo, and Puritan & Co. for drinks. I am also thankful for all of the older establishments for maintaining their worth for yet another year. Cheers!

6. I competed and I judged
Sure, I have done my share of participating in contests where you submit recipes and await a result. Save for competing in a bitters competition back in 2009 at Tales of the Cocktail, everything has been from my computer chair. This year, my Shadows & Tall Trees got me on stage at the Woodford Bourbon competition over the summer, and my Mytoi Gardens did rather well at the Diplomatico Rum competition this fall. Definitely learned a lot from the successes and mistakes made in each. This year, I also was on the other side of things for the Boston Preservation Society competition at GrandTen.
7. Knickebeins happened
Yes, wacky memorable drinks were made. The above egg yolk-laden Knickebein (For more 4-1-1, see here or here) was one of many things I got away with this year that brought people joy. Some of it was due to people bringing me in gifts that became challenges such as the Reese's cups that became a Pago-Pago riff on Easter or the New Orleans Oreo Fizz another night. Our bar's brief foray into Fireball brought about the Fireball Fizz.

8. Got more involved in beer
Besides attending drinkfests like ACBF and DrinkCraftBeer, I also volunteered at a NERAX event in support of cask beer and volunteered at the opening for Somerville's Aeronaut brewery. I also helped out in a blind taste test of 15 barley wines for a Boston.com article. True, not a cocktail, but beer can be sweet, sour, and bitter all rolled into one just like a cocktail.

9. Got written up, quoted, or acknowledged in a variety of ways
My antique-mart hunting led to a vintage bottle of 19th century Boston Punch that led down the road to BullyBoy bringing the concept of Hub Punch back to life. Michael Dietsch's Shrubs book (see list above) quoted me on shrubs (a full page quote!) as I expanded on my notes about shrubs post. Was part of the OnTheBar article on Your Favorite Bartenders' Favorite Bartenders" with my outtakes here. Also, a fraction of my glassware collection was featured on SeriousEats.
10. I survived Boston's Thirst event
I wished that I had traveled to New Orleans, Portland, or the Bourbon Trail for some of the more national cocktail and spirits weeks, but luckily, a great event was hosted right here, Boston Thirst. Talks on hospitality, history of rum, and the rise of aperitif culture were all great, as was the opening TheThing which I described in one article for OnTheBar as "high-class elegance meets low-brow cocktail shenanigans."

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