Tales of the Cocktail: Do Not Disturb

22 07 2011

More great things coming, or at least a few incoherent ramblings on Tasting Rooms, cigars, parties in the WWII Museum and after hours at the Old Absinthe House. Until then:


Day 1 at Tales of the Cocktail

20 07 2011

The official kick off to Tales doesn’t happen until today at 2PM, but in reality, TOTC begins when you get to the airport. Flying LGA->MSY anytime between Monday and Wednesday the week of guarantees your flight will be packed with bartenders, brand ambassadors, writers and as one person diplomatically put it, “prosumers.”

We were welcomed to Louis Armstrong at 3:04PM by the Delta attendant proudly enjoining us to have fun at Tales and drink Chartreuse responsibly. Tales: check! Chartreuese: check! Responsibly: …

Ramos with a double water back

The first stop in New Orleans is of course the hotel, which in our case means walk straight past the check-in at the Loews and sit down at the Swizzle Stick Bar. The bar is run by Lu Brow, who is easily one of my favorite bartenders and really just an amazing person. We caught her for a few minutes after she got back from [redacted] and talked about [redacted]. I think I’ve already said too much ;) Sorry to tease, but I’ll make it up with a picture of us last year at Halloween.

Lady Cop Lu (hot!), me as Capt. Kirk (possibly Tasha Yar?) and the inimitable Fu Man Chu

We were also joined for a few rounds of Aviations, Corpse Revivers and Vieux Carres by Emily of Mouth of the Border. She’s a force that I first met at Tales last year on the last night at Bartender’s Breakfast. I was appropriately sodden at the time so the details of it are hazy, but I’m happy to count her as friend. And of course I can’t get this far without mentioning my companions on the trip: the toxicologist who introduced me to cocktails two years ago, the “local” who drank us both under the table last year while still making it to the strip club, and the controversial Rolling Stone author who scientifically proved Lady Gaga to be the Queen of Pop.

Why am I writing more about the people then the cocktails? Drinks are a lovely thing in and of themselves, used to cool you when you’re hot, to warm you when you’re cold and to take away the shame of the day. But the pleasure in them really comes from their unique power to make new friends and bring old ones together.

So anyway, it’s 6PM which means a stop by Mission Control to be just in time to miss registration. Undaunted, we moved on to Napoleon House for a Sazerac and a Pimm’s. If you’re new to New Orleans, you’ll probably notice that the Sazerac’s here are sweeter, and let’s just say better, than what’d you get from territories farther north.

Sazerac with the requisite double water back

Food. Yeah, food’s a necessity and one of the best places to get it is at Coop’s Place on Decatur. Yes, they sell t-shirts. Yes, it gets attacked by tourists. Yes, it’s not the cleanest looking place. But damn it if they don’t make the best Jambalaya I’ve had in my life! Filled with shrimp, rabbit, sausage and aweseome-sauce, otherwise knows as tasso, this will put your stomach at ease for a long night ahead. They also make quite a nice Sazerac.

A Jambalaya Supreme

Laden down with an appropriate supply of salt and grease, we grabbed a cab to Cure where I had a mind-blowingly good trio of cocktails. The first was the Scotch and Salt: blended scotch, Cocchi Americano, Cocchi Torino, grapefruit and smoked salt.

You can really taste the salt (Apu voice)

I only came here once last year, and sadly it was later in the week so the place was packed, but this is an absolutely incredible bar. The inside is stunning, the bartenders are seriously on point, and the drinks will genuinely surprise you. I followed this up with a Last Word made with V.E.P. Green Chartreuse, and my god, so good! I went into it expecting it to be better than the standard Last Word, but probably not worth the very expensive addition of V.E.P. I was wrong. So very very wrong. I’m not going to do justice in a description, but I’ll just say what I kept repeating that night: “like buttah.”

I closed out at Cure with a mezcal bartender’s choice. I’m not going to lie, this one stumped me. It was mezcal, punt e mes and something quinine-y. That’s the flavor in tonic water pretty much. It wasn’t Bonal (too dry), it wasn’t Varnelli (it didn’t melt my face off), it was a Sauz tincture. Seriously?? These guys are just ridiculous.

The night closed out at The Saint, a dive bar if there ever was one, with $2 High Life’s and a bevy of bartenders rocking the karaoke machine. We packed it in around 2AM, missing the traditional Chartreuese and Cigars at the Old Absinthe House, but that can wait for another night. Right now, it’s time for a Pisco tasting!

Welcome to Tails of the Cocktail 2011

19 07 2011

This marks my second year at Tales and I’m thrilled to be back. I’ve already had my first Sazerac and I’m still in the cab coming in from the airport.


It’s a truly special event that I’ll have more updates on throughout the week. I’m tremendously lucky to be here and will close this with some obvious, but often ignored, advice for Tales attendees: have lots of water and pace yourself. There’s always more around the corner and you don’t want to sleep through an impromptu trip to Rick’s Cabaret like I did last year.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Indy Spirits Expo NYC

18 05 2011

Monday night at Soiree on the Bowery, the Indy Spirits Expo took over with dozens of the most unique, new and independent spirits brands. Old favorites like Templeton Rye and Hudson Whiskey showed up to serve generous pours of their fantastic whiskeys. It is incredible how far these brands have come; not even two years ago the only way to get Templeton outside Iowa and Illinois was to order it by the case from Binny’s. I got my last order from them in December 2009 just before their supply dried up completely.

Steve pimping the Templeton

From Bourbon to Rye to 4 grain to White Dog, Tuthilltown has built up a great range all from their operation in upstate NY

Now that they’ve ramped up production and are backed by Southern Wine & Spirits in NY, Templeton has exploded and can be found everywhere from Astor to the Korean liquor store four blocks from my door. And this is a large part of what Indy Spirits is about: discovering and promoting smaller brands so that everyone can enjoy them.

Both Brooklyn and Breuckelen gin were in attendance, not two tables apart, and I’m happy to report they didn’t duke it out. Well, happy and disappointed. A two gins enter, one gin leaves, Thunderdome-style death match would’ve been entertaining. I mean, at least pelt each other with juniper berries or something! (A little background) In any event, they both make great, and distinctly different gins, so I say the more the merrier.

I like vodka. So shoot me.

One of the great surprises of the night for me was Dry Fly Distilling‘s Washington Wheat Whiskey and Gin. An American whiskey that drinks more like an Irish or a Genever, it is truly unique and something I plan to play around with. The gin too distinguishes itself in an increasingly crowded market by using their excellent wheat vodka as base, which they thankfully did not distill to death. Neutral vodka’s have their place (nothing I’d rather have with herring and caviar), but it definitely makes it more interesting for cocktails when the base grains can come through.

Tennyson also made a very strong showing with their Absinthe, eminently drinkable with just a little water. You could add sugar, sure, but this one doesn’t need anything to smooth it out.

Next purchase: Absinthe Fountain

Lastly there’s Fidencio, which brought out their Pechuga and Classico Mezcal’s, excellent complements to their original. The Classico adds smokiness, coming off as the name would imply, like a more traditional style and their Pechuga, well, is made with chicken breast. Yes, and it’s delicious.

Cinnamon and Orange are to Mezcal as Salt and Lime are to Tequila

On a slightly sour note, the bouncers and floor managers from Soiree tried to confiscate much of the vendors’ product as a “donation” to the club at the end of the night. Most stood their ground, but it left a bad taste in my mouth and doesn’t reflect well on Soiree as an event space. This is nothing against the organizers at Indy Spirits, the guys at Soiree are just douches. Look at their website, just look at it!

Bootlegger 21 Amateur Cocktail Showdown

15 04 2011

Tomorrow night I’ll be competing in the Bootlegger 21 Amateur Cocktail Showdown, going after 4 tickets to the sold out Opening Gala of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic. My Martinez Blanc was selected as one of three finalists and I’ll be making them for your enjoyment. The Homage to Harlem Glamour event has sold out, but if you’ve already got your tickets then stop by and say hi!

My submission:

The most common vodka drink, apart from maybe a vodka cranberry, is the Martini. The dry vodka Martini was only popularized in the 1950’s though, and since this is about the roaring 20’s, I decided to adapt the original Martini (the Martinez) to vodka. Using Dolin Blanc instead of sweet vermouth still gives it the prohibition era sweetness you’d expect, but keeps it clean looking like a modern vodka Martini. The grapefruit bitters are lighter and brighter than angostura, which would dominate a drink with vodka since its flavor is much more subtle than gin.

Martinez Blanc

  • 2oz Bootlegger 21 NY Vodka
  • 1/2oz Dolin Blanc Vermouth
  • 1 tsp Maraschino Liqueur
  • 2 dashes grapefruit bitters
  • maraschino cherry

Stir, serve up in a cocktail glass, garnish with cherry.

Preview of Things to Come

14 03 2011

I’ve fallen off a bit lately getting new recipes and experiments up, and for that I apologize. My 9 to 5 makes it tough to keep up my 5 to 9 ;) The Daily DrAT!, though fun for me, is probably of limited general interest.

The Custer, as in Custer's Last Stand

I’ve got a few posts in progress now and should have some new content up later this week. To give you an idea of the direction, they include

  • Recipe for Gordon’s Breakfast
  • Guide on making clear blocks of ice for a perfect old-fashioned
  • Experiments on balancing Ramos Gin Fizz foam, temperature and dilution
  • Less trodden pre-prohibition recipes (think Burned Brandy, Egg Phosphate, Chocolate Punch, Snowball)

If there are any recipes in the Daily DrAT! you’re curious about, or have an idea for an experiment, drop a note in the comments. I’ll respond as best I can, and if it’s a particularly interesting or poorly documented subject, I may put up a post for it. Thanks!

Proof of my Dorky Debauchery

7 03 2011

From Metromix’s Foursquare File, my only complaint is they cut short my effusive praise of Lu :)

After pioneering a now-happening strip in Prospect Heights back in 2008, Weather Up has recently opened another location in a nightlife desolate area: Tribeca. Cocktail savant Tom Flaschen has nailed the mayorship of the new bar (and longs to steal back his reign of the old) and says it’s just as good as the Brooklyn spot.