Saturday, December 31, 2022

:: fred's top 10 cocktail moments of 2022 ::

Back in 2010, someone asked what my favorite cocktail that year was, and I decided not only to start a list of my favorite drinks, but I decided to list the top moments of the previous 12 months. So to continue with the tradition, here is the 13th annual installment:

1. Worked at Drink.
Back in November 2021, I helped to re-open Drink after it had been closed for several months to do some repair work to the leaky foundation (see #2 on the 2021 year end wrap-up). When it came time for the director of operations to pick a general manager in early 2022, I turned it down three times with the reply "I don't know what I'll tell you the fourth time that I haven't told you the three times before." I wanted to keep things simple and focus on making cocktails (see #10 on this list). One of the other bartenders had some management experience and stepped up. By mid-March, he needed some assistance and I was asked if I would like to be the bar manager to do staff training, produce ordering, and inventory. Soon I was doing two of the closes per week once we went to five shifts per week (generally only working four long shifts though). Once the liquor ordering was handed off as well, I began to be suspicious; and I was right, for the GM gave notice. We were without a GM for two weeks, and I decided to step up. I was then the GM, bar manager, and bartender all at the same time unless I was the doorman or a barback (or one night I was both barbacks) as needed. Depending on whether it was inventory week, this was 54-61 hours plus time spent at home such as doing the liquor ordering, hiring phone calls and correspondences, etc. We had a system on Sundays where one of the bartenders would send me numbers and I would do the books and time sheets from home so I could spend one full day with my wife (part of my demands when I stepped up to GM). Pre-pandemic, this was all split up between a GM, a manager, and two primary bartenders. Eventually, in a perfect week, I was working two bartending shifts and then two floor manager shifts on the busier nights (although some weeks, it dropped to one bartending shift I needed to fill in another role). Unfortunately, some of the bartenders were coming in on their days off on Sunday and one of them caused an incident. The director of operations said that a manager should have been there, and I was the manager, so now I need to work Sundays. Since this would add 11 hours and take away the one full day I got to spend with my wife (I would still have Saturday and Sunday mornings and Monday and Tuesday nights with her), I gave notice. My life-work balance would be completely off otherwise. On my last night which was a full year after joining the team to re-open, I gave advice to the two barbacks, "Just like no one gets promoted at a company Christmas party, no one gets promoted going to their bar on their day off." Unfortunately, I was the casualty here (but one where I would not have to put out a job ad and restart the process of interviewing, hiring, and training). That last night was the day before Portland Cocktail Week, so I treated myself to a vacation, but more on that later. Overall, 8 of my 12 months were spent in a management role. I ended up taking the end of November and all of December off. I will begin to consider new directions in January 2023, so who knows what the future holds.
2. Did some writing.
Besides writing for the blog where I had just shy of 360 posts in 2022, I also began a year long residency with Edible Boston and Edible Worcester. I began with a Summer issue that centered around garden herbal delights in the article with three recipes called Make this Summer a Smash. Fall went back to my interest in Johnny Appleseed who was born north of Worcester with my article and three recipes for Fall into Apple Season. The third for Winter focused in on hearty egg drinks – one hot: my favorite of Tom & Jerry and one cold: Eggnog! – for Liquid Sweater Weather. Finally, I have just finished up my fourth one for Spring 2023 with three recipes (posted here this week in advance) on maple syrup production and maple's use in cocktails. Other than that, I wrote an essay here on The Ego and the Bartender about how humility leads to better hospitality.

3. Got quoted or mentioned in a book and in the press.
Towards the end of the year, Philip Greene's Cheers!: Cocktails & Toasts to Celebrate Every Day of the Year came out where he chose to feature my Tin Can Telephone for one of the calendar days (Alexander Graham Bell's birthday, I believe) which was a pleasant surprise. As for magazines and websites, in forward order: I was quoted on my favorite underrated Bourbon in VinePair, in a somber article about agism in the drinks industry for SevenFifty, another VinePair article on favorite shift drinks, on the best tequilas for GQ, and my bartender origin story for Spill Magazine (article is behind a pay wall). Moreover, Total Food Service referenced my opinion on technology and equipment to improve the beverage world, Serious Eats sought out my thoughts on coupe glasses, Robert O. Simonson wrote up my thoughts on Boston's number drinks after he bought my first book at the Boston Shaker Store where he was doing a signing and discovered the 1919 and other recipes, Mashed quoted me on how to make the best possible Gin & Tonic, and VinePair quoted me on my favorite all-around gin for mixing. One that had me shaking my head was a SevenFifty article on drink influencers which namedropped me by saying "A few, like Boston-based blogger Frederic Yarm, have even written cocktail books" at a time when I was both the bar manager and a full time bartender at Drink.
4. Still involved in the Boston chapter of the bartenders guild.
This was my 10th full year of being a member of the USBG (joined in October 2012) and my 4th year as the chapter secretary. I organized a trip to the New England Aquarium (and drinks after) with Sipsmith Gin, and ran three-fourths of Education Week. Through my industry connections at Drink, I arranged for classes on gin of the world with Hotaling, vermouth and amari with Fernet Branca, and wild agave mezcals with Del Maguey and hosted these three on two separate days at work before the staff arrived to set up for the evening. I also attended and helped to promote events with Wahaka Mezcal, Conniption Gin, Bar Hill (up in Vermont!), Dorchester Brewing (part 4 of Education Week), and the Campari Day of Service. My essay writing skills got me on the USBG-organized Wellspring trip to Dublin, Ireland, with 20 bartenders in August. Overall, I tried to stay as busy as I could given that my involvement at Drink took up a lot of my time.

5. I read a decent amount but half as much as years past.
As I took on more responsibility at Drink, my reading slowed down, and when I was GM, it nearly stopped. I still finished 13 books in 2022 (my range for the past few years has been generally 24-30 with a one-time high of 60). I can break my favorites into three categories. The first is industry with a great hospitality book being Pouring with Heart: The Essential Magic Behind Bartenders We Love by Cedd Moses which was pure fire, and two management books with the first being the brilliantly named given my situation The Surprise Restaurant Manager by Ken McGarrie and the other being The Bar Shift: 41 Management Lessons You Don’t Have to Learn the Hard Way by Nave Nitzel and Dave Domzaliski. Sadly, often when you get promoted to management, you have to figure it out yourself, and these books were great mentors. The next category was history with Doctors and Distillers: The Remarkable Medicinal History of Beer, Wine, Spirits, and Cocktails by Camper English and From Barley to Blarney: A Whiskey Lover’s Guide to Ireland by Sean Muldoon, Jack McGarry, and Tim Herlihy (became especially relevant when I scored my trip to Dublin and it became a primer of places to check out on my free time). The last is recipe-driven and drink-theory ones that were The Bartender's Manifesto: How to Think, Drink, and Create Cocktails Like a Pro by Toby Maloney, Emma Janzen, and the staff of the Violet Hour and Cure: New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ’Em by Neal Bodenheimer & Emily Timberlake. I think that I finished up 4 of those books once I left Drink in the month of December. Hopefully, I can get back to the regular pace of two per month from my slow period of 1 per two months.
6. Traveled a little.
With a slow 2021 in terms of travel where I made it to New York City once for my Angel's Envy work, things picked up a little in 2022. My first time on an airplane since January 2020 was heading off to Dublin, Ireland, to participate in the Wellspring program. That adventure included a tour of the Guinness Brewery, a trip to the old Jameson Distillery and their special event space for bartenders a few blocks away, a Glendalough adventure that included seeing the old ruins nearby, foraging for gin botanicals, and doing a tasting at the distillery, and a trip to the top cocktail bar in the city – Bar 1661. On my own, I visited the Teeling Distillery and hit a bunch of Victorian pubs that were mentioned in From Barley to Blarney including O'Donoghue's, the Palace, Mary's Hardware, Neary's, and Kavanaugh's the Gravedigger; I also got to meet up with the family of one of the Drink bartenders and hear his dad and sister play traditional Irish music at the Cobblestone. One adventure that I applied for was Portland Cocktail Week that I had to turn down when I was accepted in a student track for my GM role did not allow me the freedom to travel. After I gave notice, the organizers wrote back to see if I was still interested, and the time frame lined up rather tightly (I left work on my last night around 4:15am and was at the airport before 10am the next morning) but it would work. I had not been to Portland or the cocktail week there since 2012. Luckily, the organizers got me back into the student track despite missing the deadline to sign up for things and scored me some cool classes. When I had not seen my wife as much, we talked about visiting the other Portland – the one to the north in Maine – for an overnight getaway on a Monday-Tuesday when I had off. After I left Drink, we took off for a Wednesday-Thursday adventure visiting a bunch of breweries (see #7), getting cocktails at Portland's Hunt & Alpine Club and The Danforth, and sampling beers at the Novare Res Bier Café and the Blind Pig Tavern. There should be more travel in 2023 with two trips lined up already. In early January, I will be going to Oaxaca to visit the Convite Mezcal facilities, teach a class, and bartend for a shift or two. And finally, in May, I will be traveling to San Francisco to be a judge in the Bartenders Spirits Awards.

7. Visited brewery tap rooms.
Besides running the beer program at Drink which got me more in touch with the industry, I got to visit breweries in four parts of the world with the grand total being 52 with many of them on my one day off with my wife. Within one hour or so of travel, the new to-me breweries included Banded, Blaze, Agronomy Farms Vineyard, Distraction, Outlaw, Modestman, and Dirigible. My trip to Ireland of course scored me a visit to Guinness as mentioned above. Portland Cocktail Week allowed me the time to visit Living Häus, Level Beer, Brewery 26, Wayfinder Beer (although I did not realize until afterwards that I should have gotten the "cold IPA" which is a style they invented), and Steeplejack. And lastly, our adventure in Portland, Maine, had us visiting Bissell Brothers, Battery Steele, and Foundation.
8. Cool moments at work.
I might have forgotten some of these if I had not noted them on Twitter, although some of them I won't ever forget. One cool one is pictured above; a gentleman asked for a Sazerac, and he loved it so much that his wife asked why it was so good. I wrote out my recipe, and they ended up framing it and sending me said photo of it. Another great memory was having a man repeatedly trying to tell me and the other couple what his date wanted to drink which was something vodka-based. I shushed him the second time with "This is her drink, her moment, and I would like to hear what she has to say." She explained a preference for whiskey or other darker spirits, and her Cognac nightcap was perfect for her as was her look of thanks that she gave me. I frequently get asked what the weirdest drink request I got at our menu-less bar, and the answer was often a duo on their third round where one requested "when Taylor Swift got the microphone taken away from her – that drink" (I made a Swizzle because Taylor fans stole the hashtag #Swizzle on Instagram and I was taking it back) and the other "when your are standing at the beach and the waves are lapping at your feet and your feet begin to sink into the sand" (she got a Sinking Ship Swizzle). And finally, I impressed folks at the bar with this: a bar guest complains, "I lost my phone – I was only here and in the bathroom." Me as the manager replies, "Have you checked the bathroom because it's not here at the bar?" Guest, "Yes, done that." Me, "Go back and check the garbage." Guest returns with her phone and everyone looks at me astonished. I reply "Not my first rodeo."

9. New cocktail bars.
I did get to visit some of the new crop of cocktail bars that opened up this year. This included Daiquiris & Daisies, Wusong Road, Wig Shop, Birds of Paradise, and Coquette (technically opened in late 2021). During our trip to Portland, Maine, I got to see the new Death & Co. project The Danforth. As for new cocktail bars to open up in 2023, I am excited about Equal Measure and Eastern Standard that are opening and re-opening, respectively, sometime in the middle of the year. I am sure that there are others, but they have been a bit more shy about announcing their arrival to the scene.
10. Created some drinks.
Some being 59 posted here in 2022. Part of these were created at Drink and others at home, and many of them got served to guests throughout the year. The Devil's Highway was created when a guest made a request for "tequila and Scotch" in an Old Fashioned sort of format and did not mean smoky mezcal. Old Fashioned requests were pretty common, and I even crafted a tropical one called the Pickwick Club and another Scotch one called Blues from a Gun. 2022 was also a big year for Espresso Martinis, and I got creative; one of my most popular ones was preceded with a question if they're adventurous and/or do they trust me. If so, they got Coffee's For Closers named after a line from the movie Glengarry Glen Ross that also has "ABC: Always Be Closing" but here the ABC was "Averna Benedictine Coffee liqueur (+ a whole egg)!" One time during the Summer, I eventually had 10 of my 12 bar guests drinking this Flip as they communicated how great it tasted to the others. A request for "Bourbon and vanilla" made me think of Don's Spices #2 (vanilla and allspice liqueur) which sent things in a tropical direction with Cave-In-Rock. For egg white Sours, there's was the Pisco Sour riff the South American Honey Bee and the Amaretto Sour riff the Am-Am Sour (the second Am is for amaro). Two inspired by art museum visits were All of Freud's Beautiful Women and Clown Car (with overlapping structures although the second one is amari-driven). And then there's the Sazerac variation based off of a Ferrari (Fernet-Campari) and Red Hook mashup that I called the Trash Polka.

I traditionally cap off the list at 10 with that last one or two being a challenge, but not this year. Last year, I had one of the 10 being "Increased my bartender-author cat herd", and we did gain one on a year ago that broke the author pattern of Embury and Boothby with the addition Coley after Savoy bartender Ada Coleman. With 2022 wrapping up, I am curious where 2023 will bring me. I did mention two trips in the first half of the year, and I should be appearing on an industry podcast sometime in January. But other than that, it will be fun to find out.

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