Monday, August 3, 2015

blanche dubois

2 oz Hayman's London Dry Gin
1/2 oz Senior Curaçao
1/2 oz Housemade Orgeat
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1 Strawberry
6-8 Mint Leaves

Muddle the strawberry, add rest of the ingredients, and shake with ice. Double strain into a rocks glass, fill with ice, and garnish with a mint sprig.

Like 2011, I ended my Sunday night of Tales of the Cocktail on Rampart Street having a low key night at Bar Tonique. After indulging in their Sunday $5 Mai Tai drink special (something that could never happen in Massachusetts), I decided to follow it up with a house original that looked like a gin and lemon riff on a Mai Tai with strawberry and mint also in attendance. The drink was created circa 2012 by bar owner Ed Diaz and pays tribute to Tennessee William's character in A Streetcar Named Desire that was set in New Orleans.
Bartender Tony Lamperti confirmed that it was the same general specs as the house Mai Tai that I just had, and the Blanche DuBois that he made for me offered strawberry aromas in addition to the mint. Lemon and berry on the sip transferred to juniper, strawberry, and almond on the swallow and mint on the finish. While retaining the delightful balance of a Mai Tai, this recipe took the structure in a entirely different flavor direction.

meyer's cobbler

1 1/2 oz El Dorado 5 Year Rum
3/4 oz Hidalgo Amontillado Sherry
1/4 oz Lemon Juice
1/4 oz Rich 2:1 Demerara Syrup
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1 bsp Strawberry Preserves
1 slice Lemon
1 slice Orange

Whip shake with two ice cubes and double strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a berries (here, blackberry and raspberry), orange slice, and mint. Add straws, and finish the drink by sifting powdered sugar over the garnishes.
Probably the most stunning visual cocktail of my New Orleans adventure -- with, of course, Beachbum Berry's Tiki libations in a separate class of their own -- was this Cobbler at Compère Lapin. The taste also lived up to the appearance as well. For dinner on Sunday, I stopped into Compère Lapin and asked bartender Ricky Gomez for this drink. Since the drink description said "rum," I asked which one expecting it to be Myer's (yes, mentally overlooking the spelling difference). Ricky declared that it was El Dorado 5 Year Rum, and when I inquired further about the name, he explained that the Cobbler drink shares a linguistic relationship to the Cobbler shoemaker, and that got him thinking about old-timey professions. Therefore, he paid tribute to Meyer the Hatter on St. Charles Street, a shop founded in 1894 that I passed by every day on my way to the Monteleone Hotel. Moreover, it is one of Boston legend John Gertsen's favorite New Orleans stops; when I bumped into him at the Bartender's Breakfast during his brief Tales sojourn, not only was he sporting a new hat, but he was carrying a Meyer's bag with more goodies (see photo below). Once prepared, the Meyer's Cobbler shared an orange and mint aroma that led into an orange and grape sip with a hint of caramel from the rum. The rich rum continued on into the swallow where it blended in with the nutty sherry, and finally the drink ended with a light strawberry note.

Figure 1: Portrait of a hat fiend.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

pua lani

2 oz Del Maguey Mezcal Vida
3/4 oz Plymouth Sloe Gin
1/2 oz Falernum
1/4 oz Galliano Ristretto
3/4 oz Pineapple Juice
1/2 oz Lemon Juice

Shake with ice and strain into a tall glass filled with crushed ice. Add a straw. Tiki-style garnish would not be out of place here.
Though the Bartender's Breakfast was a late night for me (tack on the walk home and a nightcap beer circa 2:30am at the 24 hour craft beer bar, the Avenue Pub), I still made it up to have breakfast with Paul Clarke at 10am and then interview him about his new book (interview soon to follow). After that, both Paul and I made our respective ways over to Pig & Punch held by the Bon Vivants. After sweating for an hour or so in the 108°F heat index weather, I decided to take a brief break from the event and seek solace in the air conditioning offered at Cane & Table before returning. At Cane & Table was another one of the pop-up events; this one was "Drive Thru Daiquiris" done craft style with David Gonsalves, Otis Florence, and Misty Kalkofen using the Bond & Royal portfolio. Misty's rich, smoky, complex, and tropical number served over a bounty of pebbled ice hit the spot and revived me so I could spend another few hours in the heat and score my first sunburn in years.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

ye old hurricane in a bottle

1 1/2 oz Beefeater Gin
3/4 oz Oloroso Sherry
1/2 oz BG Reynolds Passion Fruit Syrup
1/8 oz (1 barspoon) Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur

There was no information provided about the dilution here. My guess would be to serve a single portion after stirring with ice and straining; this one was batched and bottled (with or without extra added water). The spirit level is a bit too great as compared to the sugar level and lower ABV ingredients to not benefit from some sort of dilution.

The only drink that I had twice at the Bartender's Breakfast at Tales of the Cocktail was Ye Old Hurricane in a Bottle. Once because I was curious what a citrus- and rum-free Hurricane would taste like (passion fruit syrup was the only overlap between the recipes). The second was after the power went for the whole Bywater-Marigny Ninth Ward and the lights and music ceased. There was still a few booths making drinks but most were packing it up in the outage; however, the one that needed no bartenders in attendance was the bottled Hurricane. Therefore, I got one for myself, Nicole Desmond of the Rum Rum Room, and Rebecca Cate of Smuggler's Cove. It just felt right to drink something named after a storm associated with power loss, and the bottle was convenient in case we were all asked to leave the venue (although it turned out that there was no rush to shoo us from the space).
The Ye Old Hurricane in a Bottle began with a nutty sherry aroma that was brightened by passion fruit notes on the nose. Grape with tropical notes filled the sip, and the swallow offered gin, nuttiness from both the sherry and Maraschino. Overall, this Hurricane was very sherry-shifted due to the lack of citrus, but the dryness of said fortified wine maintained the balance rather well.

normandie club collins

1 1/2 oz Beefeater Gin
1/2 oz Amaro Montenegro
3/4 oz Strawberry Syrup (*)
3/4 oz Lemon Juice

Shake with ice and strain into a Collins glass filled with fresh ice. Top with soda water and garnish with a lemon wheel (omitted here).
(*) Muddling a medium-large strawberry in 3/4 oz simple syrup will substitute in a pinch.
One of the next drinks I had at the Bartender's Breakfast was the Collins from the Normandie Club in Los Angeles. The recipe was attributed to bartenders Devon Tarby and Daniel Eun, though this one was made for me by bartender Daniel Warrilow. I was definitely excited about the strawberry-Amaro Montenegro combination for it worked rather well in the Gulistan.
The Collins greeted the nose with a lemon aroma. Next, the sip was very berry flavored with crisp lemon and carbonation to give it structure, and the swallow then offered gin and orange-tangerine notes from the Amaro Montenegro.

Friday, July 31, 2015

sing for your supper

1 1/2 oz Beefeater Gin
1/2 oz Aperol
3/4 oz Vanilla Passion Fruit Syrup (*)
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1 dash Peychaud's Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Garnish with a floated lemon wheel, and add a straw.
(*) I have used equal parts of passion fruit syrup and vanilla syrup to mimic this all-in-one syrup (perhaps use 1/2 oz each here). Or go all passion fruit syrup with a few drops of vanilla extract.
After a short rest and a rejuvenating shower, I was able to muster another 8 hours of energy out of myself to attend the Bartender's Breakfast (and later a nightcap beer at the 24-hour craft beer bar, the Avenue Pub). Once at the event, I scanned the newspaper-themed handout for the booths and drinks. The one that seemed most promising indeed turned out to be the best libation of the Breakfast, namely the Sing for Your Supper by Pouring Ribbons. I was perhaps drawn in for I had positive memories of the vanilla passion fruit drink I made at home called the Midnight Matinee and created by Amanda Elder also of Pouring Ribbons. The web seems to indicate that Pouring Ribbons usually serves the Sing for your Supper with the 86 Co.'s Aylesbury Duck Vodka as the base spirit, but I have to believe that it shines much greater with juniper-flavored vodka.
The drink began with a bright lemon aroma over that of passion fruit, and this foretold the sip that was laden with more lemon and passion fruit notes. On the swallow, juniper and Aperol transitioned into passion fruit flavors, and everything ended with a light spice on the finish.

missionary's downfall

1 oz Cruzan White Rum
1 oz Honey Syrup
1/2 oz Bols Peach Brandy
1/2 oz Lime Juice
2 oz Diced Pineapple (1/4 cup)
7-10 Mint Leaves
6 oz Crushed Ice (3/4 cup)

Blend for 20 seconds, pour into a goblet, garnish with a mint sprig, and add a straw.

Saturday evening after the seminars were over, I returned to Latitude 29 and asked them for something they probably do not often hear, namely, "What is your lowest ABV drink?" It sort of goes against the concept of Tiki drinks and their hidden potency; however, I was hungry and had heard great things about their food, and I had a big night of drinking ahead at the Bartender's Breakfast. The bartender replied that the Missionary's Downfall only had a single ounce of rum and was my best bet. This Missionary's Downfall recipe was created by Don the Beachcomber circa 1940s with the earliest versions dating back to 1937. Latitude 29 followed the recipe in Beachbum Berry's Remixed (not the one in his Grog Log) with the exceptions of using Virgin Island instead of Puerto Rican rum and using less mint (7-10 leaves versus 1/4 cup).
The Missionary's Downfall greeted the nose with a beautiful floral mint aroma with perhaps honey, pineapple, and peach accents. On the palate, creamy pineapple with hints of peach on the sip gave way to a mint swallow with a peach finish.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

:: brains and booze - the neurology of mixology ::

The final talk I attended at Tales of the Cocktail this year was given by a father-daughter duo, namely bartender Pamela Wiznitzer and her dad, autism specialist Dr. Max Wiznitzer. The talk was entitled "Brains & Booze: The Neurology of Mixology." While a lot of the talk was an overview of the brain and sensing organs, I will focus on the regions of overlap that are specific to cocktail appreciation.

Without the senses, people would just drink raw alcohol, but many things affect the enjoyment of a drink and these things change with age. One of the key parts of the brain that determines the enjoyment of a drink is the amygdala that determines the intensity of emotion -- not only whether it is pleasant or not, but what are the expectations given previous experiences. There is definitely an importance on having the experience being a positive one the first time through. Pleasant is the interconnection between the flavor cortex and the "pleasure centers." Here, smell turns out to be the most powerful tool, then taste, but touch also plays a role.

While the eyes, touch, and smell all play factors in enjoying a drink, the mouth deals a lot with texture, temperature, and taste. Texture can be to detect hazards like sharp or sandy object or beneficial like creaminess which implies that the foodstuff contains fat and nutrition. Temperature is like the three bears -- too hot can damage the cells, too cold and the tongue is numb and cannot taste, and just right. The taste aspect determines the nutrient value of food. Sweet implies energy rich food, salt suggests electrolytes necessary for balance, and umami is linked to amino acids and protein; science has found the intersection of these three components by creating the ultimate junk food, the Dorito. In addition, taste can suggest hazards like bitter meaning toxins, sour suggesting spoilage, and very salty implying too much mineral content or the wrong ones. An individual can get a palate for these hazards if there is a good association with the flavor.

In discussing the taste/olfactory cortex, the Martini and how it is garnished came up. A citrus peel garnish will add more fruity and floral accents whereas a briny olive will donate salt and umami notes. Indeed, different palates will gravitate to different Martini garnishes.

The doctor commented that we usually do not like brown liquids since they are often associated with fouled water and bodily functions; however, a child can quickly learn that chocolate milk is a good thing. In the realm of Tiki drinks where a lot of the drinks end up brown and murky, the bartender often serves them in opaque mugs. This helps to mask the perception of color when we first appreciate the drink. When I mentioned this fact to RumScout later, he replied that he did find the Jet Pilot served in a rocks glass to be a little startling and unsightly. In terms of creamy drinks like the Alexander, it may remind you of the chocolate milk that you had as a kid. You might not ask for one, but if it were put in front of you, you would drink it. And when an Alexander was passed to the crowd, most of them including mine did get finished.

With age, bitter and spice desires increase, and this is believed to be linked to the degradation of taste receptors. The same is true with salt and umami notes. Therefore, the average 21 year old might not like that Cynar drink the first time, but the 35 year old possibly will.

When Pamela developed the menu at Seamstress, she thought a lot about texture including sugar and fat content, binding agents like a pinch of salt, and the taste of citrus throughout the year. She was also careful not to put in too many flavors but to build off of the base spirits. Garnishes need to apply, but the nose does not need to match as contrast is effective too. She also reminded us that a bartender is not creating drinks for themselves but for a larger subset of the population. At Seamstress, all of the new drink ideas were made for the bartenders, owners, staff, and select clientele, and recipes only made the list if everyone in the room would drink the creation.

:: strong opinions ::

"Orange bitters make a good astringent for the face. Never put them in anything that is to be drunk." With this quote from Bernard DeVoto who penned The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto in 1948, Rachel Ford began the first talk I attended at Tales of the Cocktail on Saturday. This talk entitled "Strong Opinions" brings into the question how relevant is the written word. She soon became interested in the cranky old men who wrote many of the cocktail books. DeVoto was not a bartender but a highly published author and Pulitzer Prize winner. Despite his very opinionated and controversial tone, his writing makes you chuckle and wonder if he was right in some way. As a second author, Rachel mentioned Charles Henry Baker and his The Gentleman's Companion: Around the World with Jigger, Beaker and Flask. Baker was a world traveler and exquisite story teller, and he wrote about his culinary and drinking experiences for magazines like Esquire. The third strong opinion was David Embury with his tome The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. Embury was no bartender either but an American attourney who was highly witty and opinionated. I previously wrote about Robert Hess' thoughts on Embury in my notes on his Embury and the Side Car talk back in 2011.

To make this talk even more dynamic, Rachel did not just rely on these great texts but brought a panel of bartenders and brand ambassadors who have rather strong opinions themselves both in person and especially on Twitter and Facebook. This crew consisted of Sean Kenyon, Erick Castro, Ivy Mix, and Kyle Ford. While there was voting on quotes from the three authors by the panel and live voting by the audience thanks to a cloud-based app, much of the gems of this talk were the bounty of quotes from these authors and spirits professionals.

To start, three drinks were brought up: the Martini, the Manhattan, and the Daiquiri, and which were their favorites. To add to DeVoto's opinions on the whether or not orange bitters should be in a Martini, he was very specific about his proportions and favored a 3.7 part gin to 1 part dry vermouth Martini with a lemon twist. Yes, a lemon twist for he hated olives; in fact, he declared, "And, I suppose, nothing can be done with people who put olives in martinis, presumably because in some desolate childhood hour someone refused them a dill pickle and so they go through life lusting for the taste of brine." Kyle declared that a Martini is a right of passage, while Erick argued that the Martini has held gin back as stale dry vermouth found in many bars ruins the drink. Kyle later agreed that it was not just about getting a Martini into his hand but getting the dilution, vermouth amounts, and temperature correct.

In discussing the Manhattan, Sean remembers the first time he had a proper stirred Manhattan and it blew his mind; it is the very memory of that singular drink experience that makes him go back. Moreover, Sean favors the Daiquiri to learn about a bartender's understanding of balance. Limes are different every day and throughout the shift, so rote following of a recipe can lead to variations in the final product. Finally, Erick was contrary and picked the Old Fashioned instead of the three choices to vote on. To him, the drink is a window into a bartender's soul. Every bartender has the right to make an Old Fashioned their way, and it will tell you about their philosophies and what they are about. Instead of asking me what my opinion is, just look at my three cups. The Daiquiri is all gone, the Manhattan half way, and only wisps of the Martini were quaffed. If asked, I would probably emotionally answer Manhattan, but a good Daiquiri (especially on a hot day) is hard to beat. Perhaps the way the Martini was served in a plastic cup instead of a chilled and elegant coupe glass altered by enjoyment of this drink:
Next, there were quotes from the three authors in terms of what makes a good cocktail. Ivy proffered that, "Just like a tree that fall is the forest with no one around to hear it, a cocktail with no one around to talk about it..." For her, it is all about context; bartending to her is about giving experiences to people around them. She continued, "If you have zero personality, you should find a new career." Kyle added that context is everything including the place you are at, the people you are with, etc. Even his favorite drink the Martini needs to be enjoyed in a more urban setting (and he brought his own glassware to enjoy his Martini properly instead of in a plastic cup).

When the topic of measuring came up in making a cocktail, Erick stated that it was a pet peeve of his when he sees bartenders not filling a jigger up properly. Ivy continued with, " the meniscus. A jigger is not a prop." Sean recalled how jiggers were punishments handed out when pour costs were off, and how that has all changed. Seeing a drink made well is part of the equation; Ivy mentioned that "we taste with our eyes. The music has to be right, the glass has to be right, and the garnish has to be beautiful and appropriate." Sean later threw in that the bartender is an ingredient in every cocktail.

In addition, Sean brought up the point that so many bartenders think that they know more about their guests than the guests do about themselves. Erick believes that you should create trust, get them on your side and curious, and then perhaps offer them something different. In the end, Erick continued, "It's all about serving cocktails and making people happy. We all have different palates." Sean ventured with "Mixology is a practice, bartender is a person. We serve people, not drinks. We don't want to be drink delivery systems" but want to know about the neighborhood, current events, and be ubiquitous to aid and comfort the guests. Moreover, Sean brought up how there was "such a focus on mixology that hospitality got lost, but it was a necessary step to elevate the science and history of our craft." Indeed, Ivy believes that bartenders "got their noses stuck in their jiggers" during that period.

A good anecdote about how to better serve people came about when one of Erick's bartenders asked him if he should get a second job somewhere to round out his skill set and asked Erick where it should be. Erick replied, "A sports bar. You learn how to get regulars to see you -- not your new amaro or gadget." I would add here perhaps a day shift where the clientele is seeking a friendly face more than a well made libation. Erick later continued with, "Bartending is cutting people off, getting people laid, and washing glassware. Not about making fancy drinks."