1. Job Changes
The beginning of 2015 found me still at Russell House Tavern closing in on my second year, and while I liked many aspects especially the fellow bartenders I was working with, I felt that it was time for a change. I applied for a bartender job at Chef Marc Sheehan's soon to open Loyal Nine; I had met Marc through Matt Schrage when they were doing pop-up events with Brass Tacks. Of course, with an opening restaurant, I did not know when the job was to start, but eventually I received word and the restaurant opened at the end of March. Originally I was one of the opening three bartenders, and by the end of July, I was asked if I could fill in the job of bar manager. It's strange to think back and realize that I have been bar manager for more than half the restaurant's life span!
The last few years, I have focused more on bartending and less on traveling to events. I believe that Fall 2012 was the last time I went anywhere and that was to Portland Cocktail Week in support of my Drink & Tell: A Boston Cocktail Book and in support of the Drink-Write events that week. This year, I attended the inaugural Cocktails in the Country 2015 held by Gaz Regan in Upstate New York in May. In July, I returned to Tales of the Cocktail for the first time since 2011 to sit in on classes (I attended talks in all 12 slots), go to events, and see the city. And September found me in Kentucky to attend Camp Runamok as part of the Cynar cabin. I did get accepted to Portland Cocktail Week, but I felt that I had spent too much time away. Instead, I attended local events like Diageo World Class classes, Anchor Distilling's Educational Drinking Tour, Tanqueray's Green Room, F. Paul Pacult's Rum Authority class, and a handful of USBG educational events.
Even before I was bar manager at Loyal Nine, we began doing Yacht Rock Sundays once the weather got warmer and the patio opened up. I was tasked to come up with a novel drink menu for each week (as a supplement to the regular menu) and I named them after the songs on the play list. Each week, I was creating two or three new drinks and selecting from the old ones to round out an 8 cocktail and 1 large format list. Some like Hungry Like the Wolf were such great sellers that they were retired from Sundays and put on the main list where they exert their dominance on a regular basis. Seemed it was the summer of Swizzles with drinks like Don't Fight It and Danger Zone making big waves. Moreover, I featured Cobblers, Rickeys, Fixes, and other classic styles that all had a relatively easy drinking yet flavorful feel. The weekly event got some press including this writeup in BostonChefs (has one of the menus to view as well). I also did a menu for Loyal Nine's Walrus & Carpenter event to honor Lewis Carroll's narrative poem. Six drinks named after six lines from the poem such as Hopping Through the Frothy Waves.
4. Got Some Press
It was quite flattering to say the least. Definitely the trio from Eater making their best bartender poll as one of the five finalists, getting on their cocktail heat map each month, and having a great interview published. My recipes saw some love as well with two appearing in the Boston Globe, namely the Mytoi Gardens at Russell House Tavern and Monopoly Money at Loyal Nine. Moreover, my Knickroni was republished in Gaz Regan's The Negroni and got press in places like Esquire. That old layered style of drink also got me into Gaz Regan's sights; I originally submitted it to his call for Poussé-cafe recipes and he chose it for his best cocktails of 2015 project. My Chutes & Ladders got published in his 2014 edition of that book series that came out this year. Also, the Final Countdown appeared in a Fee's recipe book and a variation on my Fireball Fizz appeared in Matt Rowley's Lost Recipes of Prohibition: Notes from a Bootlegger's Manual. Finally, I also was quoted in Boston.com's BDC-Wire piece on the Boston Cocktail Renaissance and mentioned in a Greg Proop podcast circa 17m40s.
While 2015 started off slowly with the posts, the summer saw a great frenzy of activity and it continued on through the rest of the year. I also kept the monthly Mixology Monday event going that unites writers across the blogosphere and I hosted the monumental 100th event and we just had #104 earlier this month. People do constantly ask if there will be a second Drink & Tell like book; I am not against it but it would be great to get a publisher behind it so it was not such a stress in addition to my more than full time work load. My work will appear in other forms soon with a chapter in the upcoming Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails.
6. Random Events Worth Mentioning
The year also saw me teaching a class on blogging at the Boston University gastronomy program's writing course. I judged the Bridge & Tunnel competition at the Barrel House in Beverly. And I redonned my NASA onesie from Camp Runamok to help with the launch of Cynar 70 by making our cabin's famous Cynar Coladas.
Last year I wrote, "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%." This year I exceeded my prior 18 books by 33% with a year end 24. Instead of listing all of them, here are some of my favorites of the year:
• Heywood Gould's Cocktail (a darker, more honest view of bartending than the movie)
• Chantal Martineau's How the Gringo's Stole Tequila
• Jeff Burkhart's Twenty Years Behind Bars
• Paul Clarke's Cocktail Chronicles
• Toby Cecchini's Cosmopolitan: A Bartender's Life
• Joshua Bernstein's The Complete Beer Course: Boot Camp for Beer Geeks
• Dave Wondrich's Imbibe (2nd edition)
• Ian Williams' Rum: A Social and Sociable History
• Edmund Lawler's Lessons in Service from Charlie Trotter
8. Visited New Bars
Besides my own home and work bars, I got to check out new establishments across town. Yvonne's, Tiger Mama, Lone Star Cambridge, Frogmore, Hojoko, La Brasa, State Park, Townsman, and Townshend. Furthermore, I caught up on some oldies that I had missed like Wink & Nod. My travels introduced me to New Orleans prizes like Bellocq, Cane & Table, and Beachbum Berry's Latitude 29.
While I mentioned a few above for Yacht Rock Sundays, the Campari Cosmopolitan, the Cosmopari at Russell House Tavern, the Lucien Gaudin-Cornwall Negroni hybrid, the Rene Barbier at Cocktails in the Country, and the tropical Negroni, the Tarzan Boy at Loyal Nine, all utilized Campari in different ways. I got a bit into Tiki this year with my Mai Tai riff, the Manuia, at home, and the mocktail-turned-cocktail Final Countdown at work. One of the most elegant creations was the Undercover Angel as a madeira riff on the Chrysanthemum.
10. I Knew I Should Have Paced This
The final item is more of a thanks to the bartending community for being a great host, a great teacher, and a great entertainer. Between my experiences here in Boston with my regular cast of characters or broadening my horizon with new faces at Tales of the Cocktail, Cocktails in the Country, or Camp Runamok, I feel that I have gained a better idea of hospitality and of the bartender I hope one day to become. A lot of the above are the more tangible accomplishments, but I hope that the greater ones have been to my guests and my readers. While composing this list, I spotted a photo that Paul H., one of my regulars, took at one of the Yacht Rock Sundays, as well as one of my tweets about mixology. I combined the two and captured the quote in addition to one of Paul's frequent Sunday tipples and his favorite straw of the summer: