Wednesday, July 18, 2018

easy street

1 1/2 oz Gin (Beefeater)
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz St. Germain (St. Elder)
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
2 slice Cucumber

Shake with ice, double strain into a Collins glass with soda water (2 oz), top with ice, and garnish with 2 cucumber slices.

After my bar shift on the Fourth of July, I was flipping through A Spot at the Bar and spotted this cucumber-elderflower drink by Anthony Schmidt that reminded me of something that I had made earlier in the day. That drink was a request was for something St. Germain driven and refreshing, I ended up with a similar formula with the addition of grapefruit juice (1/2 oz), upping the elderflower liqueur (3/4 oz), and utilizing cucumber syrup that we have for our house Pimm's Cup for the simple syrup and cucumber slices here (1/2 oz). I have no clue if prior reading of Schmidt's Easy Street spec factored into the equation that moment, but I was game to give this one a shot and try out this older recipe.
The Easy Street generated a cucumber aroma from the garnishes over hints of lemon and floral elements from the drink beneath. Next, a carbonated lemon and vegetal sip gave way to gin and cucumber blending into elderflower on the swallow.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

meet el presidente

1 1/2 oz Plantation 5 Year Rum (El Dorado 5 Year)
1/2 oz Fernet Branca
1/2 oz Dry Curaçao or Cointreau (Cointreau)
3/4 oz Lime Juice
1/4 oz Simple Syrup
2 small Strawberries
1 sprig Mint (8 leaf)

Muddle strawberries and mint, add the rest of the ingredients, and shake with ice. Double strain into a cocktail coupe and garnish with a mint sprig.

The other drink from Amanda Schuster's Duran Duran cocktails article that caught my eye was Marcie Andersen's Meet El Presidente that she created at Restaurant Daniel in New York City. The song's lyrics made her think of "Éva Perón, who was the famous wife of Argentinian President Juan Perón. (And Evita is definitely my favorite musical of all time.) It's a summer riff on an El Presidente with Fernet, which is very commonly consumed in Argentina." The Fernet connection to Argentina had been solidified in my mind since making the Eva Perón several years ago, and the combination of strawberries and mint pleasantly reminded me of the Blanche DuBois.
The Meet El Presidente danced beneath the nose with strawberry, caramel, mint, and menthol aromas. Next, strawberry, orange, lime, and caramel on the sip transitioned into rum, strawberry, and Fernet's herbal flavors on the swallow. Overall, the balance curiously alternated between light and summery and bracingly herbal and aggressive.

Monday, July 16, 2018

jungle booby

1 1/2 oz Blanco Tequila (Cimarron)
1/2 oz Mezcal (Fidencio)
1/2 oz Campari
1/2 oz Orgeat
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Grapefruit Juice
1 oz Pineapple Juice
4 dash Absinthe (1/8 oz St. George)

Flash blend with ice cubes for 5 seconds (whip shake with a few ice cubes) and pour into a rocks glass (snifter). Fill with crushed ice and garnish with pineapple wedges and leaves (mint sprigs and ornamental pea plant blossoms).

After having tinkered with the Jungle Bird myself a few days before with the Jungle Hotel Bird, I happened upon Brian Miller's riff at the Polynesian that was published in Imbibe Magazine called the Jungle Booby. Here, the Jungle Bird was switched to an agave one akin to the Yucatan Bird, and other Tiki florishes were added. For one, the citrus was split with grapefruit and a bit of absinthe was added in a way that reminded me of the Jet Pilot (two citrus, two sweetener, bitters). As for that second sweetener, orgeat was utilized to round out the Campari such as was done in the Bitter Mai Tai and other recipes.
Once built, the Jungle Boobie gave forth a floral and mint aroma from my choices of garnish over fruity and anise notes from the drink itself. Next, grapefruit, lime, and pineapple mingled on the sip, and the swallow offered smoky agave along with nutty orgeat melding with bitter orange flavors. Finally, the Jungle Booby wrapped up with absinthe's anise and other herbal accents on the finish.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

planet earth

1 1/2 oz Laird's Straight Apple Brandy (Laird's Bonded)
3/4 oz Cynar
1 oz Lime Juice
3/4 oz Orgeat

Whip shake with a few ice cubes, strain into a double old fashioned glass, fill with ice, and add an eco-friendly straw.

Two Sundays ago, I had just finished up a batch of orgeat and wanted to make one of the drinks listed in Amanda Schuster's Duran Duran cocktail tribute article on AlcoholProfessor called Planet Earth. The recipe was crafted by Joe Donahue at the Holiday Cocktail Lounge in Manhattan and was named after Duran Duran's debut single. Since Cynar and orgeat have worked well in other drinks such as the Aster Family Flip and the Waking Up Ain't So Easy, I was game to give this one a try. Given how well Cynar pairs with apple brandy such as in the Michigander made me even more excited to mix one up.
The Planet Earth proffered an apple and lime bouquet to the nose with dark, earthy undertones. Next, a creamy lime and apple sip led into apple, earthy, and bitter flavors on the swallow with a lime and orange blossom water finish.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

jungle hotel bird

1 oz Cuban-Style White Rum (Angostura White Oak)
1/2 oz Dark or Aged Jamaican Rum (Smith & Cross)
1/2 oz Blackstrap Rum (Cruzan)
2 oz Pineapple Juice
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Apricot Liqueur (Rothman & Winter)
1/2 oz Campari

Shake with ice, strain into a Tiki mug, fill with crushed ice, and garnish with mint sprigs (chocolate mint).

When looking up the story of the Mojito in Beachbum Berry's Potions of the Caribbean, I spotted the Hotel Nacional and noticed how close it was to the Jungle Bird. The major differences were the rum, and the presence of simple syrup to balance the lime in the Campari-based one (but not in the apricot liqueur-based one). Since Campari and apricot have proven to be synergistic flavor pairings in drinks like the Intercept, I wondered how a mash up of the Cuban-derived Hotel Nacional and the Indonesian-born Jungle Bird would do. The Jungle Bird was also fresh on my mind since someone on Instagram had made my Yucatan Bird earlier that evening. For a name, I went with the concept of the charismatic talking parrot found in hotel lobbies across the tropics, and I dubbed this one the Jungle Hotel Bird.
In terms of rums, I went with a trio here, and I started by having half the drink being the white Cuban-style rum that would have been found in the Hotel Nacional. For the other half, I split the spirit between the dark Jamaican rum called for in the original Jungle Bird and the black strap rum that Giuseppe Gonzalez discovered to work superbly to tie together the flavors. Once prepared, the drink presented a chocolate mint aroma to the nose from my choice of garnish. Next, pineapple, lime, and caramel on the sip led into rums, pineapple, and bitter apricot notes on the swallow with a bitter molasses finish. Overall, the apricot worked well to round out the Campari, and the two functioned to make a slightly bitter orchard fruit flavor.

Friday, July 13, 2018

sanchez de los toros

2 oz Reposado Tequila (Cimarron)
1/2 oz Grapefruit Juice
1/4 oz Demerara Syrup (Simple Syrup)
1/4 oz Campari
1/4 oz Angostura Bitters

Shake with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a grapefruit twist.
Two Fridays ago, I was in the mood to make a quirky drink that I had spotted on the BarNotes app called the Sanchez de los Toros. The recipe was crafted by T. Read Richards of the Valkyrie bar in Tulsa, and I was drawn to it for the mix of a quarter ounce each of Campari and Angostura Bitters reminded me of Nicholas Jarrett's Evening Redness No. 1. Instead of a Martinez riff, this one was a Tequila Sour of sorts where Richards was driven to create a woody, citrussy agave cocktail to match his tasting notes on a tequila. Once prepared, the Sanchez de los Toros presented a grapefruit, vegetal agave, and cinnamon orange bouquet to the nose. Next, a dry, tannic grapefruit sip stepped aside to a swallow offering agave, bitter notes from Campari singing through with Angostura's spice, and a grapefruit finish.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

agent 355

1 1/2 oz Sazerac Rye Whiskey
1 oz Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy
1 bsp Steen's Cane Syrup (JM Sirop de Canne)
4 dash Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters (Jerry Thomas Decanter)

Stir with ice, strain into a rocks glass rinsed with Velvet Falernum, and garnish with an orange twist speared with clove.

Two Thursdays ago, I ventured back into Drinking Like Ladies and spotted the Agent 355 by Kimberly Patton-Bragg of Latitude 29 who I had just met at the Tiki by the Sea event two weeks prior. Kimberly's drink was a split-base Sazerac of sorts with the accent not being an anise-driven bitters and cordial combination, but a clove-based one with aromatic bitters and a falernum rinse. The drink name refers to a female spy during the American Revolution who helped to uncover and foil Benedict Arnold's plot. While her identity has been surmised, it is still unknown; popular theories put her in close proximity to Loyalists whether by neighborhood or romantic suitors.
The Agent 355 began with orange, clove, and apple aromas that preceded a malt and apple sip. Next, the rye and apple continued to mingle together on the swallow along with the bitters' and falernum's clove.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

piedmont cobbler

2 1/2 oz Punt e Mes
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
3/4 oz Orgeat
1 medium Strawberry

Muddle the strawberry, add the rest of the ingredients, shake with ice, and double strain into a Collins glass. Fill with crushed ice, add a straw, and garnish with a strawberry fan.

Since we had a carton of local strawberries, I pondered what drinks that I could find with it that matched my need for a low proof refresher. Knowing that the ones that I had seen in Death & Co. and other books were much boozier, my mind harkened back to a delightful berry Cobbler that I had at Bellocq three years ago called the Dolin Blanc Cobbler. Instead of blanc vermouth, I figured that Punt e Mes would tie in with the strawberries here. The Dolin Blanc Cobbler utilized raspberry syrup, and for a sweetener here, I was drawn to orgeat which would both sooth the bitterness of Punt e Mes and hopefully work as delightfully with strawberries as it had in the Blanche DeBois.
For a name, I latched on to Punt e Mes being produced in the Piedmont area of Italy which is also known for its strawberry harvests, and I dubbed this one the Piedmont Cobbler. Once prepared, the strawberry garnish contributed greatly to the drink's nose. Next, creamy, lemon, and grape notes mingled on the sip, and the swallow was an elegant bitter strawberry and nutty almond combination.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

baccarress

2/3 Bacardi (1 1/2 oz Havana Club 7 Year)
2 dash Pineapple Juice (1 1/2 oz)
2 dash Marasquin (1/4 oz Luxardo Maraschino)
1 dash Anisette (1/8 oz Herbsaint)

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
After returning home from work two Monday nights ago, I ventured into Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars: 1903-1933, and the Baccarress caught my attention. I envisioned the drink like a Mary Pickford with anisette instead of grenadine or perhaps the Hotel Nacional Special but with the maraschino and anise notes of an Improved cocktail instead of apricot liqueur and lime. Once shaken and strained, the Baccarress showcased pineapple, nutty, and anise aromas. Next, the pineapple continued on into the sip along with a hint of aged spirit's caramel notes, and the swallow was a delightful medley of rum, pineapple, Maraschino, and anise flavors.

Monday, July 9, 2018

amargito

2 oz Cynar
1/4 oz Smith & Cross
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
6-8 leaf Mint

Shake with ice, strain into a Collins glass with 2-3 oz soda water, top with ice, and garnish with a mint sprig.
Two Mondays ago, two of my regulars stopped into River Bar for dinner and cocktails. For a final round, I could sense that they wanted something else to taste but were hitting a wall with their alcohol consumption. Therefore, I latched onto their love of Cynar and combined it with my recent fascination of Mojito variations. The concept of a Cynar Mojito reminded me of Palmer Matthew's Cynar Southside of sorts that he dubbed the Deep Six, and I included a touch of high ester rum to bring the combination a notch closer to the classic. My guests rather enjoyed the drink and raved about how flavorful it was, and I later called this one the Amargito for "little bitter."

Sunday, July 8, 2018

low heat-o

2 oz Dry Vermouth (Noilly Prat)
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
1/8 oz Absinthe (Butterfly)
6-8 leaf Mint

Shake with ice, strain into a Highball glass containing 2 oz soda water, top with ice, and garnish with a mint sprig.

After my bar shift two Sundays ago, I was thinking about how delightful the dry vermouth came across in the Sloppy Joe's Mojito Caballito, and I wondered how the drink would be as a dry vermouth-forward libation akin to the Board of Directors. After all, two of Sloppy Joe's other Mojito variations swapped the spirit to something other than rum. Keeping with the low proof theme here, I dubbed this one the Low Heat-O, and I added a touch of absinthe to complement the mint and vermouth's herbalness.
The Low Heat-O shared mint aromas over other herbal notes seeping out of the bubbling libation below the garnish. Next, a crisp, carbonated lime and white wine sip was chased by an herbal swallow with an anise finish.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

mojito caballito

1 1/2 oz White Cuban Rum (Angostura White Oak)
1/2 oz French Vermouth (Noilly Prat Dry)
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1 tsp Sugar
8-10 leaf Mint

Muddle mint in the sugar and lime juice (I stirred the lime juice to dissolve the sugar. I then added the mint, muddled, and removed the leaves). Add the rum and vermouth, fill with crushed ice, and top with 1 1/2 oz soda water. Garnish with a mint sprig and a spiral cut peel of a whole lime as a horse's neck.

Two Saturdays ago, I had been thinking about the Mojito after having made a few score of them at work. I turned to Beachbum Berry's Potions of the Caribbean to read up on the history. The drink was created in the early 1900s in Cuba and appealed to Bourbon-loving Americans for it was the "Latin American stepchild of the Whiskey Collins and the Mint Julep." Berry also linked the drink to the early 19th century Draquecito consisting of aguardiente, lime, sugar, and herba buena mint. Sloppy Joe's in Havana took the classic and added three variations, and the one that appealed to me was sourced from the 1931 Sloppy Joe's Bar Cocktails Manual; it stood out with its inclusion of dry vermouth as well as the horse's neck garnish. The variation was dubbed the Mojito Caballito, and "caballito" meant "little horse."
The Mojito Caballito greeted the nose with a mint bouquet. Next, a crisp, carbonated lime sip transitioned into rum, herbal, and mint flavors on the swallow.

Friday, July 6, 2018

nina brava

1 1/4 oz Del Maguey Mezcal Vida (Fidencio)
3/4 oz Cynar
3/4 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
1/4 oz St. Germain

Stir with ice, strain into a Nick & Nora glass (cocktail coupe), and garnish with grapefruit oil from a twist.

Two Fridays ago, I had just received my copy of Misty Kalkofen and Kirstin Amann's Drinking Like Ladies book, and I immediately honed in on the Nina Brava. The recipe was crafted by Melissa "Mellie" Wiersma who was a Boston bartender before she headed off to New York City, and I was drawn to it for the combination of smoky spirit, dry vermouth, Cynar, and elderflower reminded me of the Alto Cucina. Like all of the recipes in the book, this one was named after a notable lady in history, and here it was in tribute to a retired Navy Seal, Kristin Beck, who came out as a trans woman in 2013.
Once prepared, the Nina Brava offered up smoke, grapefruit, and floral aromas over darker notes from the Cynar to the nose. Next, caramel and a vague fruitiness that had a touch of grapefruit on the sip led into smoky, vegetal, and fruity flavors on the swallow with a dark and smoky finish. Like in other drinks, the high notes of St. Germain worked rather well to balance the bass ones of Cynar.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

snail mail

1 oz Flor de Caña 7 Year Rum (1 1/4 oz Privateer Tres Aromatique)
3/4 oz Lime Juice
1 oz Honey Syrup 1:1
1 Egg White
4-5 leaf Mint

Shake once without ice and once with ice, double strain into a cocktail coupe, and garnish with 5-6 drops of Angostura Bitters.

As the cocktail hour rolled around on Thursday night two weeks prior, I began searching the BarNotes app for a good use of my mint patch. One of the drinks that spoke to me was an Air Mail riff called the Snail Mail created by Aaron Post at Valkyrie in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The concept reminded me of Yvonne's Honey Bee but with mint instead of pear brandy as the accent.
The Snail Mail welcomed the nose with a clove, cinnamon, and rum funk bouquet. Next, a creamy lime and honey sip stepped aside to let a funky rum and fresh mint on the swallow shine.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

newlyweds

1/2 Brandy (1 1/2 oz Camus VS)
1/4 oz Pineapple Juice (3/4 oz)
2 dash St. Croix Rum (1/2 oz Seleta Cachaça Gold)
1 dash Grenadine (1/4 oz)

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
Two Wednesdays ago, I had returned back from Tiki by the Sea, and I was in the need of a nightcap. Therefore, I reached for Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars: 1903-1933 and selected the Newlyweds. The recipe reminded me a little of a Mary Pickford or perhaps a Hotel Nacional, and this split brandy-rum drink seemed like it would be a good transition from my previous days sipping tropical drinks. Once mixed, it offered a fruity aroma from pineapple and grenadine with grassy notes from the cachaça. Next, pineapple and berry on the sip led into Cognac, pineapple, and cachaça funk flavors on the swallow with a raspberry-pineapple finish.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

:: hospitality in tiki ::

"I am a bartender and I'm full of shit, but that doesn't make me wrong," began Mike Neff at his "Hospitality in Tiki / The Business of Tiki" talk at Tiki by the Sea. Despite the title, it had nothing specific to do with Tiki but more to do with role of the bartender in hospitality and in making a living. In addition, he questioned the role of the drink making craft in the scheme of things.

Mike explained that the bottom line in bars is a bit boring but very important. All of the spreadsheets amount to the concept of "don't spend too much money but also not too little." The top line is more difficult for if there is a problem, we the bartenders are the problem. But we are also the solution. Taking a moment from this train of thought, Mike requested a piece of paper to demonstrate his paper airplane folding skills. He stopped speaking and began folding while making a few comments about how great of a paper plane maker he was. After he was finished, he launched the plane across the room. What was the point? We spend too much time looking down doing the craft of making good drinks that we forget why people were there. While he made a good plane, he stopped speaking to the audience as they got lost in his focus. Also, someone in the audience yelled out that he and his friends would like 10 of those. Mike continued on that "the [drink making] craft is part of what we sell but is not just what we sell. We sell escapism." Moreover, Mike paraphrased a quote as, "the drinks are free; the hospitality is what the guests pay for."

As for the finances in the transaction, there is a fee built into the price of the drink for the bartender to make it for the guest. The hospitality is where everything additional comes in. Mike explained that hospitality has been corrupted by Starbucks and their use of that fake "service voice." There is another step beyond that, and that is where there is a lot of money to be made. That layer is hard to name, but Mike stated that the closest is "humanity." He continued that he was not in this business to make friends but to make money, and figuring out how is key. For example, does the guest have to bring his own fun? Mike asked, when a single guys goes into a bar alone and orders a beer, what happens? Does he get entertained? Does he get a goodbye at the end?

Mike set up a scenario where a boss tells a bartender that a particular night of the week is slow and that they can have that night on a trial basis. The bartender has 6 weeks to work and make it busier, otherwise, they will give the night to someone else. It is nothing personal against that bartender, but it is just business. The answer is that the bartender needs "to be so goddamn awesome that people come back." Mike proffered that we have bred out the ability in the job. There are three good components to being a successful bartender: being really good looking, really funny, and really fast. You need at least two; if you have all three, you can work anywhere.

Harkening back to the paper aircraft moment, Mike described how we have made an entire generation of weenies. We taught them that everything important was in books. We taught them there was a purpose. And we made people famous, and they started forcing their staff to do it their way and thus created orthodoxies. Being a bartender is more than this for it is one of the most important jobs for humanity. A bartender can touch millions of people over their career, make tourists think fondly of their trip, and be part of a profession that is responsible for more pregnancies than any other one besides OB/GYN. Bartenders need to show humanity, and this is something that bartenders do not know until they have been at an establishment for years, served the same guests for long stretches of times, and integrated into the guests' lives. This is why Mike rarely looks at resume with less than a year at each establishment. Our guests "need to drink giggle juice, do it with [other] people, and do it with rhythm." A bartender's demeanor has the ability to screw up their guests' life from making their rare night out go poorly to ruining their romantic chances with their date.

Mike brought up the tale of a Jack Daniels rep whose drink of choice was said whiskey on the rocks with a side of a soda -- an order that can be acquired pretty much anywhere that stocks that nearly ubiquitous spirit. The question is why a guest like that should return to your bar? It all matters about what happens at that bar. Is the place one of those serving "paper planes" that can be tied down and taken out of the game with a large order? We train our guests to expect a greater amount of time on each drink build, on better ice and garnish, etc. to the point where the bartender cannot provide hospitality. And this also affects the degree to which the bartender can make money. Next, Mike enjoyed telling the story of how a few of his bartender-guests saw him free pouring instead of jiggering and told him that he is not making drinks right. Again and again, these same bartenders came to his bar and chastised his technique. Mike finally replied, "The difference is that you guys keep coming back to my bar and I don't come to yours."

Mike next defended the concept of tipping. What the boss gets per order is fixed, but we get to negotiate with the guest and figure out what they want. The good bartender will set the rhythm, and they need to get everyone to look at them. This level of respect avoids the frequency of calling guests out for their behavior. He also noted that if one of the guests realizes that they outnumber the bartender, we as bartenders are in trouble, so that level of control is crucial. It is also important to have your guests see you as a human being. Our tipping structure, as flawed as it is, is worth keeping. The hourly a bartender receives is merely so they turn on the lights and not steal from the boss. With tips, the bartender can have a side deal with the guests. Bartending is a job of both sales and production, and it is one of the few professions where workers craft their own stuff and sell it as well.

Making a cocktail is a gift -- it is something that the bartender constructed with their hands and that the guest is going to put into their mouth. That is intimate. So the first thing that you should say after presenting the drink should not be about money. It could be a few of the ingredients or it could be exclaiming "Shazzam!"; regardless, make them realize the value of it. Even when making bespoken drinks, other than asking the regular questions like stirred or shaken, ask something like "Superman or Wonder Woman?" Why? Because now you know the guest better than before, and that guest will be more likely to return. They will feel that the drink is more attuned to them. Mike asserted, "I cannot make a transformative cocktail unless I love you."

Mike pleaded that bartenders not be dicks. "If you're going to be a dick, be a big dick... [be] the Dick." People do seek out that experience of an abusive staff known for their antics, but anything less than that is unfortunate. Whatever you do, you need to be a real person. Mike disclosed that the game is knowing the guest's name. And secondly, what profession and other things that they do in the world. "We have an ability that is close to magic. We have the ability to flip switches in their minds to change the way [the guest] thinks." While it is important what is in the drink itself, it is merely a vehicle for what we do. In the end, it all about the people.

In terms of knowledge, no manager hears, "I have read all these books and know how to use a jigger" and replies, "Cool... you get to work Saturday nights!" Overall, knowing about movies is more important than knowing about piscos. Mike finished up with the fact that bartenders "are micro-dosing love -- it's a powerful thing. This generation is born with supercomputers in their pockets... and they can always drink at home." Getting them to leave their home and return to your bar is the goal of every shift.

zombie slow dance

3 oz Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
1/4 oz Strawberry Juice
1/4 oz Orange Juice
1/2 oz Ginger Juice
1/2 oz Star Anise Tea

Blend with 1+ cup ice, pour into a glass, and garnish with a pineapple chunk (here, a banana slice after the pineapple garnishes ran out).
For the Fernet Branca-sponsored lunch on the last day of Tiki By the Sea, they had a bar set up where Tarot cards helped guide you to to your choice. Luckily, I got the one that coincided with the drink I wanted to try -- a low proof, vermouth-based, blended Zombie called the Zombie Slow Dance. I was curious for I had created (a non-frozen) one, the Torino Zombie, a few months before and wanted to compare and contrast. It was so good that I had another later (pictured here), but by that time, they had run out of the proper pineapple wedge garnish and I requested a banana one prepared for another of their drinks.

Monday, July 2, 2018

:: balance in the bartending industry ::

The morning after the Herbs & Rye pop-up at Tiki by the Sea, bartenders Giuseppe Gonzalez and Nectaly Mendoza spoke to us during breakfast about how to live a healthier life as a bartender. Giuseppe began by asking Nectaly, "I've been bartending for 22 years, and you?" Nectaly replied with "3, that I remember." Both of these industry legends have given up drinking with Nectaly at 3 years sobriety and Giuseppe at 4. Each reached a breaking point as the partying was affecting their health. Both were overweight; Giuseppe had come down with Type I Diabetes and was on a kidney transplant list, and Nectaly faced his own health issues due to the drinking and drug abuse. Giuseppe also mentioned that he is a third generation bartender and how the job killed his father at age 38 from heroin and alcohol addiction.

Giuseppe continued on by explaining that the hard part was in learning to change his habits. He feared that he would lose all his friends in the process, and he wondered what it would be like to go to Tales of the Cocktail without that crutch. At Tales, when you walk into a seminar, you are handed a drink. It becomes part of your habit to drink, but there are ways of making it work. All of his best relationships have come from events like Tales, so there is value in going. And others like Jim Meehan and Julie Reiner have found ways of making it work.
Nectaly offered up that he does not preach sobriety. He commented how we see people both in their highest as well as their darkest moments, and the industry often does not provide guidance especially since we are not guiding ourselves. He suggested that each bartender ought to find out his or her true meaning and why they act a certain way. Bartenders these days are trying to be superstars on social media; trying to be people who they are not is not self-sustaining in the long run. Nectaly explained, "I chase myself in life" and how he stopped chasing awards. When he was chasing it, it felt like something fake; when he stopped, the awards givers and success began chasing him. In addition, "You've got to seek the happiness in yourself," and while drugs and alcohol got him into certain crowds, in the end it was just him.

Nectaly went sober when his career was on fire, and his establishment was winning awards. Yet, at Tales of the Cocktail that summer, it came to a close when he felt that he almost died due to the excess. On top of that, he quit because he was not happy. While Nectaly did not regret doing all the drugs and alcohol, he regretted how he felt.  He feels that the best version of himself is at 100% and that is a sober self. Nectaly later followed up by asking us what we were focusing on in life. Are we an artist (with talent) or a clown (the performer)? When Nectaly gets on the stage to work, he now tries to use his natural voice and reach his purist form without the need for juggling and makeup façades.

Guiseppe continued, "If you can't be happy without drinking, think about that," and he found that not drinking did not hurt his career. When you are behind the bar, you are the host and the M.C. You are making the party happen, and things can go awry if you are not vigilant which is made worse through drinking at work. As you drink, the night becomes more about you and less about your guests. Bartending is a job measured in small victories where the praise is about doing it well every day.

Giuseppe warned that "If you are looking at bartending for happiness, it is not going to happen. If you are looking for happiness, it is in connection." Nectaly supported this concept. While he blames the pressures in the industry for everything he did wrong, the industry was also the biggest support when he stepped back. People will fall in your life, and the goal is not to pick them up but to be there when they stand up. Make yourself accessible to help out, and rock bottom is the perfect foundation for that person to build themselves back up. Finally, Giuseppe wrapped things up by stating that if someone is in trouble and shoots you a text, call them. Do not text them if they are in trouble, but reach out and speak to them.

tiki rita

2 oz Patron Reposado Tequila
1/2 oz Patron Citronge Orange Liqueur
1/2 oz Grapefruit Juice
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/4 oz Vanilla Syrup
1/4 oz Allspice Dram

Shake with ice, strain into a Tiki mug with crushed ice, and garnish with a lime wheel studded with 3 cloves, freshly grated nutmeg, and a Hawaiian sea salt rim.
For the Patron-sponsored dinner at Tiki by the Sea, we were served the Tiki Rita crafted by Mindy Kucan while at Hale Pele in Portland, Oregon. The drink was her entry into the 2017 Margarita of the Year competition, and the recipe itself reminded me of her Winter Daiquiri. With the Don's Spices #2 and grapefruit juice, the Margarita was elevated with vanilla and clove notes and extra citrus complexity into a delightful tropical creation.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

:: the art of blending frozen drinks ::

One of the valuable technique talks at Tiki by the Sea was entitled "The Art of Blending Frozen Drinks" by Jon Arroyo, the beverage director at the Farmers Restaurant Group. The talk's subtitle was "A little bit of Science, a little bit of Technique, and a little bit of B.S." The topics ranged from styles of blended drinks to equipment and ice type needs to ice ratios; moreover, he wrapped things up with a discussion of frozen drink machines. The first thing Jon did was to divide up the drink styles into 3 classes:
1. All Juice: only spirit, juice, modifier, and sweetener. No herbs or fruit chunks.
2. Fruit, Herb, and Vegetable: Add in botanical chunks or leaves that need to be processed in the blender to group 1.
3. Cream and Dairy: This is group 1 plus dairy, coconut cream, nut cream, etc. Basically, any ingredient that adds a fat component to the mix.
Jon also divided the genre up into two concepts. The first was the flash blend where cocktails require little ice and minimal blending time; this is where the goal is to get the drink cold with minimum dilution such as with a Daiquiri. The utility blend required greater ice as well as included more difficult ingredients that perhaps need to be rendered.

In terms of ice, he rated things as follows:
• Kold Draft or Hoshizaki: Will kill your blender!
• Crescent or Half Cube "Hotel Ice": Not bad, not good.
• Flake or Pebble Ice: The go-to choice!
Jon also broke blender speeds into three categories:
1. Flash Blending: blending or pulsing at high speed for 13 seconds or less.
2. Utility Blending: Ramping up to high speed for 20-25 seconds.
3. Ramp Blending (or "Smoothie Blending"): works in three steps with the first being to render the ingredients, next to integrate the ice, and lastly to freeze the drink. A programmable blender will allow you to set this; works over the course of 30 seconds or more to get the appropriate texture.
The enemy of the frozen drink is water, for if there is too much, it will separate into frozen clumps of ice. Certain ingredients can hold things together as a binder such as sweeteners. The general ratio for a blender drink is listed below. To get the drink correct, make the drink the normal way, reduce the sweetener by half, add ice, and blend.
2.5 oz - 3 oz Spirit
1.5 - 2 oz Juice
1 oz Sweetener
2 cup Pebble Ice
Considerations here include the texture such as how you want the cocktail to feel on the palate; this can include slushie, frothy, smoothie, etc. Next, do you want the spirit to shine through or not? For the juice, it really depends on what type you are using such as lemon, lime, grapefruit, or pineapple; some things like pineapple can have or lack a lot of acid or can vary greatly in sweetness and need to be assessed each time. For fruits and vegetables, the water content in some such as cucumber can greatly effect things in ways that herbs, roots, and many fruits will not. Frozen fruits can be utilized to replace some of the ice needs in the equation. To reduce water content, concentrated sweeteners such as 2:1 syrups are preferred. In addition, do not neglect the value of salt which can also act as a binder and will help to intensify flavor in the otherwise cold-deadening mix. And for ice, weight is the best measure; however, weighing is not appropriate for service conditions so marking a line on a measuring cup is preferable. Lastly, blender drinks do separate as they sit out, so serving them in opaque Tiki mugs can help hide this occurrence from guests.

During the question and answer session, the topic of frozen drink machines was brought up. Jon explained that most models were designed to get rather cold to accommodate very sweet mixtures. To determine the proper water amount, weigh the drink before and after blending with ice to get it to right consistency. Moreover, add your batch in cold (i.e.: refrigerate overnight) to help things along. If possible, design your bar around the machine since they do take up space and require good ventilation and shade. Refractometers are key for determining the sugar content of the final mix which should be 13-15° Brix.

Adding in things I learned at a recent "Frozen Drinks 101" class held by Daren Swisher here in Boston, besides hitting 12-15° Brix (his preferred range), he also shoots for 12-15% ABV. Too low on either of those, and the drink will be icy with large crystals due to the fast freezing. Heavy syrups or pectin rich jams and jellies will help to alleviate these texture problems. Daren also suggested substituting ice for water (by weight) and whisking it in to chill the mix for use.