Monday, November 14, 2011

:: shakin' it up review ::

Last night was the Greater Boston Beverage Society's Shakin' It Up! event at the House of Blues. The evening was a fundraiser and prequel to the Boston Cocktail Summit, replete with seminars and parties, occurring in early October next year. The Greater Boston Beverage Society is the brainchild of Jamie Walsh of Stoddard's and Alexei Beratis from Of the Spirits Beverage Consulting as a means of elevating the Boston scene akin to Manhattan and Portland with their respective cocktail weeks. The photo above is how I was greeted by Todd Richman of Sidney Frank Importing Co. once I entered the first of two floors of the space. There was a pretty wide representation of spirits at the booths from the cultish Fernet Branca to the popular favorite of Jameson. Besides drinks, there were photo booths and swag give aways including the Fernet Wheel of Fortune.
One of the highlights was the bartender battle with teams representing each side of the river. The Boston side consisted of Domingo-Martín Barreres of Market, Naomi Levi of Eastern Standard, Tyler Wang of No. 9 Park, and Jess Li of Citizen, and the Cambridge side showcased Kelly Unda of Harvest, Sabrina Kershaw of Noir, Aaron Butler of Russell House Tavern, and Tony Iamunno of Grafton Street. The competition was a combination of drink trivia for control of the mixing followed by the question-answerer crafting the classic cocktail to be judged by Brother Cleve. Major props go to Aaron Butler who had the mindfulness to bring an Oxo Double Jigger up on stage with him. Some of the drinks made were the Ward 8 (Tyler), Sidecar (Aaron), Sazerac (Sabrina), and Ramos Gin Fizz (Naomi). The competition was close, but the Cambridge side missing a critical question cost them the event, and the Boston side walked away with the $500 prize.

I garnered a bit of gossip that night too. Joe Fee of Fee Brothers was there as a sponsor of the event, and he spoke of the new bitters flavor, Fee's Gin Barrel-Aged Orange Bitters, that should be out in March of 2012. Joe commented that many bars were using a 50:50 mix of his West Indian Orange Bitters and Regan's, and he wanted to created something that split the difference. He acknowledged that his West Indian Orange Bitters are a bit sweet, but it is his grandfather's recipe and he was not going to change that. Instead, he created these to be drier, spicier, and aged in barrels previously containing Old Tom Gin. Also, I spoke with Ryan McGrale about the soon-to-open Hawthorne and he gave me a photo preview on his iPhone. The bar seems to be modeled after Death & Co. and other New York City bars where most of the seating is away from the bar. Due to the constraints of the space, there will be a 12 person or so bar in the front room with a communal long table right behind it, and a satellite bar in the side room that will have a more limited menu. Around the rest of the space are lots of couches, comfy chairs, and bookshelves full of art and hand-selected books. I also heard rumors about Patrick Sullivan's soon-to-open Brick & Mortar. Apparently, the menu will focus on vermouth-based and other stirred drinks with less focus on citrus; I have no problem with that concept if it is true.
My best of the event awards:
• Best Sample: Prichard's Rye Whiskey with a close second of Downslope Wine Barrel Aged Rum, both distributed by Origin Beverage Co.
• Best Swag: A Fernet Branca shirt! When I spun the wheel I swear it landed more on tattoo, but the rep was quite generous and asked what size I wore.
• Most Suprising Combo: Jägermeister and root beer?! I had my doubts that it would be too sweet, but it worked well with a bounty of herbal notes. Gary Regan would probably approve of this.
• Strangest Photo Booth: Beefeater Gin featuring girls dressed up in Carnivale outfits. Apparently, the British empire stretches further than I thought.
• Best Booth Personality: Kraken Rum's deep sea diver as pictured above.


Ryan said...

Sad to have missed it.
From the sound of it, Hawthorne sounds like it will be very similar to PX in Alexandria, VA with its couches and lounge-y atmosphere. From what I remember, Death and Co. had a lot of tables and booths but no couches. Any idea whether Hawthorne will take reservations for bar seats?

As for Beefeater, I guess Trinidad and Tobago were part of the Empire at some point..

frederic said...

I have no clue about reservations or about that much else major that I didn't write here or in the previous post on Wednesday.

True about T&T. It was also the Jameson booth (from the print on the back drop) and the Absolut girls were posing with people. No clue. Perhaps viewing them as Vegas showgirls would make it less confusing.