Sunday, November 30, 2014

:: mixology monday announcement ::

MXMO XCII: Apples!

While discussing all of the way apple flavors pair well with different spirits and liqueurs such as mezcal and Yellow Chartreuse, I figured that apples would make a great Mixology Monday theme if I were to ever host it again. Due to a gap in the MxMo roster (hint: see how to host here), I am back here to run the show!

Apples have been an American booze staple with Johnny Appleseed as its symbolic hero. John Chapman became that legend by planting apple tree nurseries across the northern Appalachia and the Midwest. He did not choose grafting techniques to reproduce sweet edible ones, but bred them to make sour apples perfect for cider and applejack. Michael Pollan in The Botany of Desire proclaimed, "Really, what Johnny Appleseed was doing and the reason he was welcome in every cabin in Ohio and Indiana was he was bringing the gift of alcohol to the frontier. He was our American Dionysus." Apple products began to enter into the mixed drink literature in the 19th century with the Stone Fence appearing in Jerry Thomas' Bartender Guide and got quite refined by the end of the century such as the Widow's Kiss in George Kappeler's Modern American Drinks. Indeed, apples have found their way into modern cocktails via Calvados, applejack, sparkling and still cider, apple butter, and muddled apple.

Here's how to play:

• Find or concoct a recipe that features apple as one of the star ingredients whether it be fresh, cooked, fermented, or distilled. If not a recipe that already utilizes apple, perhaps substitute apple brandy for say Cognac or whiskey in a classic to make a novel variation.
• Make the drink and then post the recipe, a photo, and your thoughts about the libation on your blog, tumblr, or website or on the eGullet Spirits and Cocktails forum.
• Include in your post the MxMo logo (whether the classic or any of the three apple ones provided here) and a link back to both the Mixology Monday and Cocktail Virgin sites. And once the round-up is posted, a link to that summary post would be appreciated.
• Provide a link to your submission in the comment section here, tweet at @cocktailvirgin, or send an email to with the word "MxMo" somewhere in the subject line.

The due date is Monday, December 15th which I will interpret as whatever gets posted before I get home after my day bar shift on the 16th (and yes, I will tack on late entries since it is part of the act of cat herding). Yes, we are doing this earlier in the month so that we can pack in all the MxMo excitement before the December holidays begin to take over.


Friday, November 28, 2014

shrubbed-up 1933 cosmo

The recipe below is for the Shrubbed-Up Cosmo and parenthesis is how I made the 1933 version:

1 1/2 oz Citrus Vodka (1 1/2 oz Tanqueray Gin)
3/4 oz Cointreau (3/4 oz Cointreau)
1/2 oz Apple-Cranberry Shrub (1/2 oz Raspberry Shrub)
1/4 oz Lime Juice (1/4 oz Lemon Juice)

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wedge (lemon twist).

A few Thursdays ago, I was in the midst of reading Michael Dietsch's Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times (which has a great page long quote from me on shrubs!) when I skipped ahead to the recipe section. There, I spotted Dietsch's shrub variation on the popular Cosmopolitan born in the 1980s. While I did not have apple-cranberry shrub or the ingredients to make it on hand, I did have raspberry shrub in the refrigerator and thought about doing a shrubbed-up version of the strangely similar gin-raspberry-lemon Cosmopolitan from Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars 1903-1933.
The Shrubbed-Up 1933 Cosmo began with a lemon oil aroma with hints of raspberry and vinegar; I highly recommend using freshly expressed citrus twists with shrubs for their bright aromas do help to mask a lot of the vinegar notes in shrubs that can be off putting to some. The sip was citrus-driven with a vague fruitiness from the raspberry. Finally, most of the raspberry flavors appeared in the swallow where they mingled with the gin's juniper and other botanicals, and the swallow finished with orange peel notes from the Cointreau and a zing from the shrub's vinegar.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

maximo blue

2 oz Lunazul Reposado Tequila
3/4 oz Salers Gentian Liqueur
1/4 oz Benedictine
1/2 oz Pineapple Juice

Shake with ice and strain into a Single Old Fashioned glass.
A few Tuesdays ago after work, I walked over to Bronwyn in Union Square, Somerville, for a cocktail. There, I asked bartender William Weston for the Maximo Blue as the combination of tequila and gentian liqueur worked rather well in the Copper Canyon. Will explained that the name Maximo Blue stemmed from the tequila's Blue Webber agave used in fermentation. Once prepared, the cocktail presented an agave aroma. While the pineapple dominated the sip, the swallow offered a more complex combination of tequila, earthy gentian, and herbal notes.


1 1/2 oz Palo Cortado Sherry
1/2 oz Xicaru Mezcal
1/2 oz Zucca Rabarbaro Amaro
1/2 oz Drambuie

Stir with ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with 2 drops of Regan's Orange Bitters.
For a second drink at Estragon, I peered into Sehil Mehta's recipe book (pictured above) and spotted the Sebastian. Sahil explained that one night two of his guests, Sebastian and Gopal, requested drinks made up for each of them. Once in a glass, the Sebastian shared an orange and grape bouquet with a hint of smoke. A grape sip preceded the smoky swallow that ended with lightly bitter herbal complexity. The Drambuie here seemed to hold the disparate elements together as well as smooth out some of the mezcal's and amaro's rougher edges. Moreover, the Zucca and sherry flavors were rather complementary in the mix.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


2 oz Amontillado Sherry
3/4 oz Benedictine
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/4 oz Absinthe

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail coupe. Garnish with a lemon twist.

A few Mondays ago, we ventured down to the South End to have dinner at Estragon. There, I asked bartender Sahil Mehta for his drink of the day that he posted on Twitter and Instagram as the sherry and Benedictine combination seemed alluring. The recipe itself later reminded me of Bergamot's citrussy riff on the Chrysanthemum called the Calla Lily. Given that concept, I dubbed this drink another 'C' flower name, the Camellia, which we have grown a variety or two of here at home.
The Camellia offered a floral-herbal aroma from the absinthe and a bright citrus note from the lemon twist. The lemon and grape combined on the sip, and the swallow presented a nutty and herbal swallow with an anise spice finish. The sherry here did take the drink in a different direction than the Calla Lily, but it was equally as light and aperitif-like.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Jigger 2/3 Sherry (1 1/2 oz Lustau Amontillado)
1/3 Italian Vermouth (3/4 oz Dolin Sweet)
Dash Benedictine (1/2 oz)
Dash Cointreau (1/4 oz)

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. I added an orange twist.
A few Saturdays ago, I began to flip through Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars: 1903-1933 and soon found myself in the wine section. There, I spotted the Guggenheim sherry cocktail that had caught my eye before. The Guggenheims during the 19th century amassed one of the largest fortunes in the world through their importing and mining activities. While the Guggenheim Museum was well after the publishing of this cocktail book, the family did use the money for philantrophy in aviation and other aspects of the arts during the book's time. In the glass, this tribute offered a grape and orange oil aroma that led into a similar grape and orange sip. Next, the swallow shared nutty sherry notes with herbal accents followed by a chocolate-orange finish.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

port of call

1 oz Daron Calvados
1 oz Plantation 5 Year Barbados Rum
3/4 oz Sercial Madeira
1/4 oz House Falernum
2 dash Peychaud's Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass.
A few Thursdays ago, I ventured over to Alden & Harlow after work. For a drink, I asked bartender Amber Carbino for the Port of Call. One of the servers later mentioned that it was "fall in a glass," but I was drawn in by the Madeira element. Once prepared, the Port of Call donated an apple and clove spice aroma. Grape and caramel on the sip led into rum and apple on the swallow and a smoky grape and spice on the finish.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

:: fermentation... an ancient trend ::

My restaurant's general manager organized an outing to the Harvard Science & Cooking Lecture Series on Monday where Jody Adams of Rialto and Trade was speaking about "Fermentation... An Ancient Trend." While he thought the talk was going to be more about boozy drink topics, I figured that the theme would be a bit more broad than that given the talk's full title. Either way it was fine by me.

Fermentation is rather helpful to people for few reasons including preservation, flavor intensification, intoxification, and ease of digestion. The microbes doing this work take complex molecules, digest them, and spit out some combination of acids, ethanol, gas (such as carbon dioxide), aromas, and flavor molecules. While these molecules can be of use to us, the microbes are secreting some of these molecules as part of their chemical warfare system against other species of microbes. For example, the alcohol that brewer's yeast produces can kill bacteria, and the acid that lactobacillus churns out can poison out competitors.

Cooking is not so far from rotting, and fermentation is rather tied to this trend. Adams showed images of Klaus Pichler's pictures of rotting food to demonstrate some of these concepts, and the photos reminded me of Peter Greenaway's A Zed & Two Noughts. However, fermentation is your friend and it's more than just rotting food. The bans on cured hams and unpasteurized cheeses have helped to confuse this matter. The sterilization of our food and our bodies has caused multiple issues such as with colds and allergies, and there has been a buzz about probiotics as of late to return our internal flora to regain the health benefits.
Fermentation is important for flavor, and can help to create a Proustian experience with the intersection of flavor and emotion. Good fermentation microbes take the energy in carbohydrates and return changes in flavor, texture, preservation, and health benefits via pre-digestion of food and probiotics.

Adams presented the history of microbes starting 7000 BCE with the first recorded mention of China making alcohol out of rice. It took a while for microbes to be identified with 1837 and 1840s yielding the identification of yeast and bacteria, respectively, and it was not until 1856 that Louis Pasteur connected yeast to alcohol fermentation. In the United States, the health benefits were first sought after around 1910 with the importation of yogurt as a health food and digestion aid. Trends slowed down with the prohibition of fermented beverages in the 1920s, the advent of anti-bacterial deodorant soap in 1948, and the widespread use of anti-bacterial soaps in households in the 1990s.

In bread, activated amylase enzymes in wheat and the various enzymes in yeast begin to break down large starch molecules into simple sugars such as glucose, fructose, and maltose. While yeast will break the glucose and fructose down into alcohol and carbon dioxide, bacteria such as found in sour dough cultures will break down the maltose sugar in lactic and acetic acid. These bacterial acids generated in longer, slower fermented breads can yield longer shelf lives; bread becomes more interesting when left to rise overnight or for two days in the fridge. As an example, Adams passed out to the audience a quick rise, a one day, and a two day slow rise; the zero day was the sweetest, the one day was drier, and the two day had a bounty of additional pleasant flavors in the mix. As for health benefits, the microbes help to reduce some of the gluten in bread and to produce acids to inhibit molds. Additionally, during the baking process, the heat combines acids and alcohol into esters that offer the delightful freshly baked bread aroma.

In yogurt, the bacteria eats the lactose that many people have a problem digesting. Moreover, the bacteria add intriguing flavor with the lactic acid production and donate health benefits as probiotics for the digestive system. The acid in yogurt is helpful in cooking as it can be added to sweeter foods for balance. Adams showed off her home unit that maintains temperature to make a batch of 7 servings of yogurt overnight.

In fermented pickles, the naturally occurring lactobacillus on the surface of cucumbers works with brine to turn the sugars in the cucumber into lactic acid and carbon dioxide. Vinegar-processed pickles are not fermented -- the acetic acid in the vinegar itself is fermented, but not the pickles. While Adams did not cover shrubs, most of the quick hot- and cold-processed shrub recipes are not fermented either. Some slower methods of making shrubs can be partially fermented though. In pickling, the lactic acid-producing bacteria like salt and 70°F. Bad bacteria generally do not like this environment though; too much or too little salt (outside of the 3.5-5% salt solution range) or too hot or too cold will give other microbes an advantage. Pickling offers several advantages. First, it preserves fruits and vegetables; moreover, it adds flavor, increases the memory of food, and adds vitamin B to the diet.

For further information, Adams cited as her bible Sandor Ellix Katz's The Art of Fermentation. I also took photos of Adam's pickle and Rialto's bread recipes in order to share some of the details not covered here.

the eldridge

1 oz Edinburgh Gin
1/2 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
1/2 oz Cinzano Sweet Vermouth
1 oz Amaro Montenegro

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

For my second drink at Viale, I asked bartender Patrick Gaggiano for the Eldgridge which was labeled as the "house Negroni." Patrick described his creation as "[we are] not re-inventing the wheel, just twerking it a bit." With the split dry and sweet vermouth, the structure reminded me of Evan Harrison's Perfect Pal at the Independent. Moreover, the Amaro Montenegro in a Negroni riff made me think of Paul Manzelli's Montenegroni, but that kept the Campari element and used the other amaro as a substitute for the vermouth.
The Eldgridge began with bright orange oil aromas from the twist. The grape sip contained citrus notes from the Amaro Montenegro, and the swallow shared a combination of gin and bitter tangerine flavors. Overall, the Eldridge was a good drink and a solid entry Negroni for those not ready for Campari. In addition, the dry vermouth in the perfect structure helped to keep the sweetness in check here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

further moore

1 1/2 oz El Buho Mezcal
3/4 oz Cardamaro
1/2 oz Yellow Chartreuse
1/2 oz Honey Syrup
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with 2 oz Jack's Abby Jabby Brau Lager and add a straw.
A few Wednesdays ago, I paid a visit to Viale when bar manager Patrick Gaggiano was at the stick. I was quite curious about their beer cocktail, the Further Moore, on the menu both as a drink and about its name. Patrick explained that the Moore in question was the one who turned Pat on to Cardamaro. I commented that Cardamaro was not the easiest ingredient to mix with, and Pat agreed; his recipe did remind me a little of the Sacrilege with the lemon and honey to sooth the sharper notes of Cardamaro. In the glass, the Further Moore, gave forth a lemon and lightly herbal aroma. A lemon, honey, and malty sip transitioned well into a smoky mezcal and herbal swallow.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

vermouth cocktail

The theme for this month's Mixology Monday (MxMo XCI) was picked by Dinah of the blog. The theme she chose was "Shims" which seemed like a great topic as aperitif-style drinks are becoming hot both in bars and in literature such as her The Art of the Shim book that came out a few months ago. Dinah elaborated on the concept by describing, "This month's topic is near and dear to our hearts as it is our favorite type of lower-proof cocktails: shims! These drinks contain no more than half an ounce of strong spirits... Heavy-hitters are fun to drink, sure, but it's way too easy to over-consume and under-enjoy when you're playing hardball. Let's stretch out our evenings and get to sample a bigger variety by lowering the proof without lowering our standards. Shims don't require giving up on flavor, complexity, or--interestingly enough--even your favorite ingredients. Get a new understanding of your favorite high-proof spirit by using just a half or quarter ounce of it along with a milder leading player. Or take a low-proof character actor that usually supplements the main show and see if it can take the lead..."
For this theme, I began to recall all of the late 19th century recipes for cups, punches, and cocktails that featured fortified and aromatized wines as the main component. And then I recalled that the last time Dinah led Mixology Monday was back in September 2008 when hosted MxMo XXXI "19th Century Cocktails," so the idea had a great logical connection to the past, but blogging and spiritous, as well. One of the first books I grabbed was The Only William's The Flowing Bowl from 1891. There, I spotted the Vermouth Cocktail which appeared more like an Improved Vermouth Cocktail for it had absinthe and Maraschino in the mix. For MxMo "19th Century," I did another absinthe and Maraschino-enhanced libation -- the Improved Gin Cocktail. While I believe that Jerry Thomas was one of the first authors to publish a Vermouth Cocktail, it does not reside in my 1862 edition reprint and most likely appears in the 1876 second edition. I did spot it in O.H. Byron's The Modern Bartender's Guide from 1884 as the Vermouth Cocktail #2 with the addition of gum syrup but no absinthe. William Schmidt's Vermouth Cocktail was as follows:
Vermouth Cocktail
• 1 drink Vino Vermouth (2 1/2 oz Cocchi Sweet Vermouth)
• 2 dash Maraschino Liqueur (3/8 oz Luxardo)
• 1 dash Absinthe (1/8 oz Butterfly)
• 1 dash Bitters (Angostura)
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
In the glass, the Vermouth Cocktail shared a grape and nutty cherry aroma with hints of herbal notes from the absinthe. The vermouth's grape dominated the sip, and these notes continued on into the swallow where they were complemented and accented by nutty Maraschino flavors. Finally, the swallow finished with absinthe's and the bitter's herbal spice. Overall, I commented that the combination came across a bit like a rich Madeira, while Andrea replied that it "tastes like a full-strength cocktail."

So thank you to Dinah for picking the theme to challenge us to find tons of flavor despite lower ABV's as well as for running the logistics of this month's show, and thanks to the rest of the Mixology Monday participants for keeping the barspoons stirring and the spirit of the event alive!

Friday, November 14, 2014


1 1/2 oz Jim Beam Bourbon
3/4 oz Punt e Mes
3/4 oz Amaro Ramazzotti
2 dash Angostura Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass.
One of the Blender Bender after-parties on Sunday night was the Amor y Amargo pop-up event at Silvertone. Sother Teague and associates showed up with a menu of six drinks to represent their Manhattan establishment. While Fernet Branca was the sponsor, not all the drinks were menthol-bombs for the company also distributes Carpano Antica, Punt e Mes, Templeton Rye, and other products. For a drink, I requested the Pumpernickel which appeared like a Boulevardier riff; I did not get a chance to ask why it was called that, but it seemed true to many of their drinks on the regular menu. Once prepared, it offered a Bourbon and grape bouquet. Next, a caramel and grape sip led into a whiskey swallow with dark orange and Punt e Mes' bitter notes and a spice finish.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

:: the three phases of hospitality ::

One of the most valuable talks at this year's Thirst Boston for me as someone in the service industry was "The Three Phases of Hospitality." Moderator Andy Seymour led the three pronged attack with Jon Santer of Bourbon & Branch and Prize Fighter fame discussing everything that can be done before a guest walks into the establishment, Joaquin Simo of Death & Co. and Pouring Ribbons fame focusing on what can be done once the guest is inside, and Sean Kenyon of William & Graham expounding on crafting a culture and community to foster hospitality.

Seymour began by defining hospitality as the linchpin of any establishment. In this new Golden Age of the Cocktail, we are trying to raise everything to a higher level -- not just the drinks, but the experience as a whole. Bartending is a job that comes from the soul -- some part of you needs to take care of other people. How do you make a guest feel at home in your space? Nothing happens by accident. A bartender is a facilitator of good times by making a community and giving comfort and a sense of welcome. And with that lead-in, Seymour handed the reins over to Santer.

Santer began by comparing and contrasting coffee shops and bars. At coffee shops, there is a counter, a transaction, a making of a drink, and a hand off just like in bars; however, in coffee shops, people are very happy to wait in line for their drink. Whereas coffee shops are orderly in the wait, bars are chaos. So how do we control the chaos and make things more manageable? Consider the layout of the space. First, strive for a symmetry -- something that we are hardwired to appreciate. While asymmetry is interesting to the eye, symmetry is in the end calming. Small things like having all the bottles on the backbar clustered logically by spirit type, all bottles facing the same way, and no pour spouts on these display bottles. Recognizable brands, whether on the shelf or on the menu, provide comfort; too many obscure brands can be discomforting to the guest. Lighting is also very key since sight is a dominant aspect of the bar and restaurant experience; we often worry more about the taste of drinks than how things look or sound. For example, Santer's bar has multiple dimmer switches to regulate the feel of the space.
For bars that have multiple work stations, having identical mise en place is crucial as bartenders then do not have to think as much as they go from well to well. In addition, everything needed for list drinks should be in arm's reach. When it comes to drink selection, the cocktail menu should be an exercise in empathy, not creativity. Chunking information such as in rules of three per page (like cocktails, beer tap/bottle, wine). Put the vodka drink first. Santer favors menus with all nouns and no adjectives that list key flavors. Brands are less important, and they generally are not about the guests.

Simo was next up with his take on how to prepare your environment for service to communicate that you have the guest's best interest at heart. No interaction at the bar is more important than the interaction with the bartender. The bartender is the linchpin and helps to shape how guests will view your establishment. Guests will return if they (1) have something delicious and/or (2) have great service. Mastery of the environment is crucial, for the bar is a tough work space. Starting as a host, busser, barback, or doorman will help; support roles help to form your sensibility. Copping an attitude makes things harder for the staff, as such negativity creates an us-versus-them mentality and tone.

Simo listed important skills for looking out for your guests. Preparation. Anticipation -- don't wait to be asked. Order and familiarity -- if you don't know where things live, you look foolish, and guests are reading you to gain faith. It is perhaps easier to go from the blindingly fast world of club bartending to craft cocktail bartending than it is to start as a craft cocktail bartender and learn speed (such as without jiggers). The club environment teaches both speed and efficiency of movement. Working in a variety of bar environments is helpful for other reasons. For example, learning to cut people off and be thanked later instead of offending the guest or even starting a brawl is an important skill. Moreover, one learns gentler ways to cut someone off when the average guest in question is a large, tough, burly one. Preparation also includes guest banter, and Simo devotes two hours each day to reading with at least half of that devoted to booze for this purpose. The rest can be newspapers, websites, and books (loosely related to booze). He does not read to be an expert but to figure out how to ask intelligent questions to a guest. The bartender can be the expert or can give their guests a moment to shine. Knowing about restaurants, television shows, neighborhoods, and home team sports schedules is important. Even if working service, a bartender needs to look past the drink rail, for the job is to serve guests; the ability to multi-task will help both guests and co-workers alike.
Kenyon began his section by describing his hiring process. In an interview, he wants to differentiate between actors and genuine hospitality people. Kenyon often takes perspectives out and sees how they relate to service people. Are they genuine? This includes eye contact, saying hello, and treating people well. You can teach skills and mechanics behind the bar, but you cannot train some to have a personality. Actors can't fake it; when things get tough, they first take it out on the people working with them and then on the guests. An actor can do service for it has steps; hospitality has soul though, and it comes from the heart.
Bartenders need to be able to come into work with a good attitude about their lives for their shift, and they need to be able to absorb any negativity from the guests or the fellow staff. Radiating positive energy is crucial. Asking "what do you want?" or "what do you need?" is not as hospitable as "what would you like?" or "what can I get for you?" While the term customer implies a cash transaction, the term guest does not. Tips are not the reason for the work but a fringe benefit. Seymour added that these actors burn out for the role was not who they were. He commanded us to respect the people we work with. Hospitality extends in every direction from not only the bartender to the guest but the bartender treating the barbacks and other supporting staff well.

vieux from the flor

1 1/2 oz Tequila Ocho Reposado
1/2 oz Cardamaro
3/4 oz St. George NOLA Coffee Liqueur
1/2 oz Lustau Palo Cortado Sherry

Stir with ice and strain into a glass and garnish with an orange twist.
The third drink that I had at the State Lines: A Portland & Providence Pop-up event at Thirst Boston came straight from the Cook & Brown cocktail list in Providence. The Vieux from the Flor, a stirred and complex drink and not the one above being shaken by bar manager Gillian White above, combined tequila, sherry, and coffee flavors with some added complexity from Cardamaro, so it definitely called out to me from their short list. Once in the glass, it presented a bright orange oil aroma over that of coffee with hints of tequila poking through. A dark grape sip was likewise followed up by a coffee, tequila, and herbal swallow.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

:: the re-emergence of rum ::

One of the next talks I attended at Thirst Boston was "The Re-Emergence of Rum" moderated by Misty Kalkofen and sponsored by Privateer Rum. The panel consisted of writers and rum historians David Wondrich and Wayne Curtis, distiller Maggie Campbell, and bartenders Charles Joly and Joaquin Simo, and the topics spanned the changes in rum production styles through the years, how rum perception by the public has varied, and how to improve rum for the future. Overall, there was definitely a New England angle for the talk. For a good primer on rum styles, please see a talk from last year's Thirst Boston entitled "Rum: The World's Most Versatile Spirit."

As Curtis explained, the history of rum in the New World got its start with Christopher Columbus bringing sugar cane to Hispanola in 1493, and luckily, this honeyed grass grows like crazy in the Caribbean. Sugar became king there and soon few other crops were planted; food and lumber often had to be brought in to the islands all at the expense of sugar. A key moment was when the molasses, the industrial waste product in sugar production, was no longer solely dumped into the ocean as people realized that it could be used to feed yeast in a ferment and then distilled. A second key moment was due to England colonizing Caribbean islands. While sugar was sent back to England and Europe, much of the molasses was shipped to New England in trade for food and other supplies. Over 160 rum distilleries sprang up in New England in addition to the ones further north in places like Newfoundland. England's hand in this trade caused rum to collapse after the Revolution.

A third key moment in rum was in the late 19th century when the Bacardi family came along and took the generally nasty, oily spirit and figured out how to refine it via filtration, better distillation, and other techniques. The 1950s unfortunately brought about the fourth key moment when rum became closer to vodka. America lost its taste for full flavored and funk in the age of processed foods and spirits that would leave you "breathless." Luckily, the fifth key moment was in the last 20 years with the rediscovery of what rum can be. In 1991, the Old New Orleans Rum Company started up and produced some intriguing spirits, and a few years later Phil Pritchard started in Tennessee.

Most New England rum was not considered as good as Caribbean rum (with a few exceptions). Wondrich surmised that the secret lay in Leonard Wray's (of Wray & Nephew Rum) Practical Sugar Planter book from 1848 with the quote, "Rum is the spirit which is made on sugar estates from the molasses and skimmings resulting from the manufacture of sugar." The secret here is the skimmings -- the foam on top of the boil that is removed; while not needed in the further production of sugar, it has a lot of the flavors of fresh sugar cane juice and can contribute a grassy note to rums. On the islands, rum was made from molasses, skimmings, and dunder (the remainder from the last still run), whereas in New England, they lacked the sugar cane and thus the skimmings and could only make "molasses brandy." Sadly, the Caribbean is making this same molasses brandy now since most of its raw materials are coming from Brazil. Therefore, the good news is that New England can be at parity with Caribbean rums, but the bad news is that there is no more terroir in much of Caribbean rums (at least the molasses-based ones where they are buying the raw materials at market). Campbell continued on the theme by describing how the Caribbean imports a lot of the raw materials for they produced too much rum volume to keep up on the agriculture end. Rum has often been quick, fast, and cheap, and its popularity post-World War II also saw the decline of flavor. "With the speed of molasses," there is a slow return to rum having more flavor, and this is getting craft bartenders excited.
Simo explained that the desire to drink Rum & Cokes does not yield many branded calls for rum. However, there is much variety out there. Donn the Beachcomber used to say, "What one rum can't do, three rums can!" Wondrich explained that rum can be very varied and it can mimic the qualities of much of the spirit world out there (see quote above). Campbell expounded that while distillers are on an even playing field in terms of bringing in molasses, the real question is what rum are distillers going to try to make? Campbell explained that she could make a different style of rum each year (as a one-off) for the rest of her life and still not repeat a style.

Simo brought up a Camper English post on the Alcademics blog about how much sugar is added to rums -- a shocking amount! Eastern Standard bartender turned Privateer Rum rep Kevin Martin declared, "It's a bartender's job to add the sugar (to cocktails)." For example, Smuggler's Cove in San Francisco was mentioned for its immense sugar program where they carefully choose which sweeteners to mix with their spirits. So how does one know quality when there are few labeling laws as to additives? Campbell looks first for flaws; heads come across as nail polish burn and tails as pencil shavings, while level of sweetness suggests how much the producer is trying to hide these flaws. She also looks for quality: concentration and complexity of flavor, amount of heat, and whether it is still- or wood-derived for the variety of flavors.

While bartenders and rum aficionados look for such complexity, bar guests often look for sweetness. Unsweetened rum is often too harsh for tasting straight. Simo's reply was that, "'Ooh, that's smooth' is the worst tasting note ever" for it favors the bland and inoffensive. More flavor, for example, can be generated with longer, slower ferments, fermenting with dunder from prior batches, and fermenting to lower ABVs. The higher the alcohol content in the ferment, the more heads that get carried over; lower alcohol content is cleaner since the yeast are "less drunk" and produce fewer off flavors since they are less stressed. Rum is a lawless and rogue world; rum is made in too many places with too few laws and restrictions. As a counter example, Curtis mentioned Ed Hamilton's rums where the codes on the labels takes transparency to an extreme for it provides photos and details for each rum's production.

Wondrich brought up a point about a New England A.O.C. for rum that spanned the historic zone of Providence up to Portland. At the Boston Cocktail Summit in 2012, Wondrich and Curtis in the "Medford Gold" talk concluded that the new style of New England rum has the consensus flavor of molasses notes and a dry tang at the end, and that it should try to join the ranks of Bourbon in designation.
During the talk, we were given four unlabeled wine glasses of white rum. Smelling and tasting them all, I could easily tell that #3 was Privateer -- part because they were one of the sponsors and part because my bar at Russell House Tavern chooses to feature that spirit as our well white rum. Two definitely reminded me of Bacardi with its clean style and woody note, and I was not wrong. I was correct on the first glass by thinking Brugal; I was not confident in my guess, but I figured that it had to be one of the better known rums out there and it did remind me of Brugal. The fourth was El Dorado (not sure whether the three year or the lower tier white rum); while I do own El Dorado 3 Year at home, nothing triggered my mind that this was a Demerara rum. Finally, Joly spoke to the bartenders and commanded that we need to do the homework and make wise choices at the backbar to educate our customers better.

velvet washington

1 1/2 oz Gosling's Family Reserve Rum
3/4 oz Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy
1/2 oz Velvet Falernum
1/2 oz Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
1 dash Bittermens Tiki Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail or single Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a lemon or orange twist.
Another of the drinks I had at the State Lines: A Portland & Providence Pop-up event at Thirst Boston was from Aurora in Providence called the Velvet Washington. An image search on the web could not confirm the existence of a velvet painting of George Washington, so I assume that the velvet aspect is the falernum, and perhaps the Washington part is for the apple component. Once mixed, it offered a dark aroma with a hint of bright citrus oil. On the palate, a dark grape sip gave way to dark rum swallow with clove notes and lingering caramel, char, and apple flavors on the finish.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

:: the aperitif hour ::

One of the first talks I attended at Thirst Boston was The Aperitif Hour hosted by Naren Young and Nick Korn and sponsored by Campari. The event guide's description declared, "Where once 'stirred, brown, and strong' was the inspiration for many bartenders, now it is low alcohol aperitifs that are again providing inspiration for new creations while resurrecting old classic drinks that deserve our respect." Naren began by stressing the importance of aperitifs especially in restaurants; the word aperitif comes from the French aperire meaning "to open" such as the palate. Perhaps bartenders should begin the conversation with guests with the question "Where are you in your evening?" to figure out what drinks to make or suggest for people. Before or after meals, needing lighter libations when out with colleagues, etc. are all perfect moments for aperitif style cocktails.

Naren split the talk into two aspects. The first was the more expected -- suggesting aperitif recipes, while the second was how to heighten the experience by making it memorable. For example, why put a Dry (Vermouth) Martini on the menu? If you can do it well or unique, call it out. At Saxon & Parole, Naren's 5:1 Martini was listed as "Dry Martini Service" with gin, vermouth, and "accoutrements." An old school sized glass, a sidecar carafe with the rest of the drink stored in crushed ice, and a trio of garnish possibilities of an olive, onion, and a knotted lemon twist all aesthetically displayed. Instead of relying on store bought pickled olives and garnishes, why not make them in house with matching botanicals?
Even the classic Gin & Tonic can be a playground of variations. In addition to making your own house tonic water, Collins ice molds produced by Cocktail Kingdom can be utilized to add seasonal touches like cucumber water, chili water, or ginger water ice. At Bacchanal, Naren honed in on the Spanish interest in the G&T where some places have as many as 150 gins and menus with 25 or more G&T combinations with different garnishes listed. Even elevating the drink with a frozen glass, a metal straw, and fresh citrus garnish can assist in making the drink alluring to the senses.

While Fernet Branca may be the bartenders' shot, the Negroni has become the bartenders' cocktail over the last 5-6 years. It is a safe drink and good even when made poorly. Naren's preference is a little extra gin heavy at 1:3/4:3/4 to help to dry out the sugar-laden amaro and vermouth components; moreover, stirring on ice and straining over fresh ice, especially a single large ice cube, is his go-to technique. Also take a step backward from Negroni and consider the Americano a/k/a Torino Milano for an aperitif. At Bacchanal, Naren served a variety of seasonal Negronis on tap such as the Chocolate Negroni:
Chocolate Negroni
• 1 oz Gin
• 3/4 oz Campari
• 3/4 oz Sweet Vermouth
• 1 dash Creme de Cacao (or other white chocolate liqueur)
• 2 dash Chocolate Bitters (to dry out the drink)
Serve with a dehydrated orange wheel garnish (quicker to garnish with attractively during service) and fresh orange oil (so that the fresh twist does not need to look perfect).
The Boulevardier and the Old Pal, the rye Negroni variations with sweet and dry vermouth, respectively, from 1927's Barflies and Cocktails are other classic ways of tinkering with the Negroni. Two other variations, the Negroni Sbagliato (1 oz each Campari, sweet vermouth, prosecco) from 1972 and the Negroni Bianco (1 oz gin, 3/4 oz Aperol, 3/4 oz bianco vermouth, 2 dash lemon bitters) were also noteworthy. In addition, Naren shared his thoughts on the bottled Champagne Negroni (pictured below). Bottling equipment is rather cheap and most of the work is backend time. While guests wait for tables on a busy Friday or Saturday night, it will boost the guest experience. Moreover, the staff will love making the sale with the only front end work being popping a cap.
The revival of punch is another aperitif idea. The communal experience allows the bartender to prep a single bowl instead of a hodgepodge of drink orders for a group. Other drinks mentioned were the Bamboo, Aperol Spritz, pastis drinks, Upside Down Dirty Gibsons, Classic Champagne Cocktails, Highballs, and Horse's Necks. The final drink I have in my notes is the Jasmine; besides the proportions in that link, Naren offered his ratio of 1 1/2 oz gin, 1/2 oz Campari, 3/4 oz Cointreau, 3/4 oz lemon juice, and garnished with an edible pansy.

rhinestone cowboy

1 oz Fernet Branca
1 oz Benedictine
2 dash Fee's Gin Barrel Aged Orange Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a Highball glass with ice. Top with 1 1/2 oz Maine Root Sarsaparilla and garnish with a lemon twist.
One of the drinks I had at the State Lines: A Portland & Providence Pop-up event at Thirst Boston was the Rhinestone Cowboy. This recipes was one of the three offerings at the Sonny's Restaurant of Portland table, and I was game to try it to see if sarsaparilla paired with Fernet just as well as Moxie did in the Improved Toxic Moxie. Once prepared, the Rhinestone Cowboy shared a lemon oil aroma over a light air of herbal notes. Next, a root-tinged caramel sip gave way to most of the rootbeer flavors on the swallow with a menthol finish. Indeed, both the Benedictine and the soda worked well to tame Fernet Branca and keep all the aspects in balance.

Monday, November 10, 2014

:: highlights of thirst boston 2014 ::

Earlier today, the Bartender's Breakfast marked the conclusion of the second annual Thirst Boston, but for me the event ended with the afterparties on Sunday night for I needed to work and open a bar on Monday morning after taking the whole weekend off from Friday evening on. I have only taken a few short moments to reflect on the past few days given the whirlwind adventure between my barshifts on Friday and Monday, and here are some of the highlights:
Best Part of The Thing: The Secret Bar. For the first The Thing, there were three rooms: an entry vestibule, the main hall, and then the #DTO room. This year, there were only two; however, somewhere towards the end of the night, a small window -- something between a coat check or a cafeteria window in style -- opened up and there was Charles Joly serving "A Cocktail." I did see photographic evidence that Jon Santers was making drinks too, but I only caught Charles making an agave Corpse Reviver.
Old Faces: A good number of Boston ex-pats came back to attend and/or volunteer for the weekend. For example, I was impressed that Lea Madda and Chad Arnholt traveled from California to be there and give their time to help out.
Best Recurrent Concept: Pop-ups! The first cool one was on Saturday for the State Lines: A Portland (Maine) and Providence (Rhode Island) Pop-up. Several bars both cities had tables demonstrating their tone, displaying their food and drink menus, and showcasing a trio of drinks to try. Best swag from that event was an Allen's Coffee Brandy knit hat from the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club in Portland. Moreover, on Sunday night was an Amor y Amargo pop-up featuring bartender Souther Teague and the Fernet Branca portfolio (pictured below). The Boston Shaker pop-up store was a great thing for those visiting, but a good deal of us are blessed with having that store so close by and accessible.
Best General Talk: The Re-emergence of Rum. Besides a star-studded cast of characters -- Misty Kalkofen, Charles Joly, David Wondrich, Joaquin Simo, Maggie Campbell, and Wayne Curtis -- it was a great mix of distiller, bartender, and historian that gave a great perspective on the spirit that was a good supplement to last year's Rum: The World's Most Versatile Spirit talk. I will be covering that talk in greater detail soon.
Best Industry Talk: The Three Phases of Hospitality. With Andy Seymour as the spirited moderator, Joaquin Simo, Jon Santer, and Sean Kenyon spelled out great concepts from how your bar is laid out to menu design to help make the guest feel more comfortable. Of course, in addition to how to productively interact with guests to make them feel at home. I won't spoil too much of this talk now, so have patience for when I can do it justice with a long write-up.
Not What I Was Expecting Talk: The Aperitif Hour with Naren Young and Nick Korn. I was expecting more about the history and importance of aperitifs, but I was pleasantly surprised by how it was more about making these drinks special for our guests. From seasonal variations to care in garnish as well as from bottling cocktails to unsung heroes of the aperitif hour like the Jasmine. Naren's point could be summed up in the quote, "Everyone can make great drinks. Remember, we're selling experiences."
Best Snide Comment from Matt Schrage: Yes, this needs to be a category. Matt Schrage, founder of the Mocktail Virgin/Slut blog, at the "From Medicine to Libation: The Art of Preparing Vermouth" seminar commented about my early vermouth blend, "Smells like you're washing your terrier (dog) in Sprite™... Good job, Fred!"
Great Way of Thinking About Cocktails: While Stephen Shellenberger has divided the lot as whether people like the softer taste of Snapple™ or the acid backbone of wine, Diego Loret of Barsol Pisco at "Importing Awesome - The World's Next Great Spirits" made the differentiation of "Do you love green apples or red?"
Blast from the Past Moment: Reaching into the pocket of my smoking jacket that I wore to The Thing and finding the pamphlet guide from the LUPEC's Boston Tea Party speakeasy event from fall 2007. It was LUPEC-Boston's first event and wearing that jacket landed me on the DrinkBoston blog; several of the LUPEC-Boston broads were at The Thing and were quite touched by seeing that keepsake!
Absurd Drink Award: Not sure whether Ran Duan handing me a Piña Colada in a green coconut cup replete with a two foot neon straw in the front room of The Thing or the 50-50 Martini laybacks in the back room of that event.
Surreal Bar Remake: The Absolut/Pernod Ricard afterparty at the Hawthorne where they converted it to a Studio 54 tribute!
Coolest Find: Finding photos of the old carousel Boston that was in Boston (in the hotel Thirst was held in) -- see my Tweet for the image. I knew that there were many carousels in the world and that Boston had one (although the Monteleone one might be the only one left), I didn't realize that I would be in that hotel and in that room this past weekend!
Biggest Confusion: No, it wasn't how to get to Copley with various parts of the Red and Green Lines down for the weekend (thanks MBTA!), but it was in going to work this morning. I tried to catch my wife up on my weekend and was about to head out the door with my trusty backpack that served me quite well all weekend (as well as daily carry to work) when she pointed out that I hadn't picked out or packed a dress shirt, vest, and tie combo. Whoops! I guess that's what too little sleep will do for you...

Thursday, November 6, 2014

chauncey depew

Jigger 2/3 Sherry (1 1/2 oz Lustau Dry Oloroso)
1/3 Italian Vermouth (3/4 oz Dolin Sweet)
Dash Angostura Bitters
Orgeat Syrup (3/8 oz)

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Two Tuesdays ago, I returned to the wine section of Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars: 1903-1933 and got lured in by the Chauncey Depew. Depew was a United States Senator from New York from 1899-1911, and perhaps the Chauncey from the Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book was named after him too. The latter book only provided the speculation that it "must have been named after the most distinguished person of that prenomen, a famous orator and wit." What drew me in was the fact that the Chauncey Depew cocktail reminded me of a sherry-(and vermouth)-ified Japanese Cocktail minus the lemon twist!
The cocktail provided a nutty grape aroma that was supplemented by the orgeat syrup as well a hint of spice notes from the Angostura Bitters. A sweet grape sip then gave way to a nutty sherry and almondy orgeat swallow with a spice finish. Overall, the Chauncey Depew was softer and less Old Fashioned-like than the Japanese Cocktail (as I interpreted the vague recipe), and the pairing of oxidative sherries and orgeat is always a synergistic win.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


1 oz Cachaça (Seleta Gold)
1 oz Punt e Mes
1 oz Aperol
1 dash Regan's Orange Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
Two Saturdays ago, I turned to Gaz Regan's The Negroni book and spotted a cachaça-based one. The Brazilevardier crafted by Matty Durgin of the Green Russell Bar in Denver was a crafty play on the Boulevardier. Indeed, the format with Punt e Mes made me think of Dave Delaney's Bitter in Brazil, but that one was with Grand Marnier instead of Aperol. But looking back through the recipes, the closest recipe would be the cachaça Negroni, the Lua Bonita, served at the Franklin Southie's Leblon industry night. Once mixed, the Brazilevardier presented an orange oil aroma that brightened the Punt e Mes' dark notes and the cachaça's funk. Next, a grape and orange sip gave way to a more complex swallow containing funky grassy cachaça flavors and a combination of Punt e Mes' bitter and Aperol's orange-rhubarb notes.

Monday, November 3, 2014


2/3 jigger Sherry (1 oz Lustau Amontillado)
Dash Vermouth (1/2 oz Dolin Sweet)
2 dash Creme de Cacao (1/4 oz Marie Brizard)
2 dash Lemon Juice (1/4 oz)
1 dash Orange Bitters (Regan's)

Shake with ice and strain into cocktail glass.
Two Fridays ago, I peered into the wine section of Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars: 1903-1933 and uncovered the Allies. With the creme de cacao and lemon juice, it came across as a sherry and vermouth version of the gin-based Mady with perhaps shades of a sherry Twentieth Century. After stirred and strained from my mixing glass, the Allies brought a grape aroma with a hint of chocolate to the nose. A crisp lemon and grape sip prepared the mouth for a nutty and chocolate swallow with a hint of orange on the finish.